NCDOT has prepared refined designs of the preferred alternative, which was recommended in May 2016 (see description of alternatives below). These refinements are based on the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization’s updated traffic projections as well as input received from the community and City of Asheville. This was done so that the project could better meet the community vision for the project while still meeting federal design and traffic operations standards.
Now that designs have been refined on the preferred alternative, NCDOT is preparing the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will address the comments on the 2015 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and, also, discuss the analysis of the anticipated beneficial and adverse environmental effects of the preferred alternative.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement and attend a public hearing, on Dec. 4, 2018, to review and provide input on the refined designs.
The final step in the project's planning phase will be to issue a Record of Decision, which will address comments received in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Record of Decision will also identify the preferred alternative, present the basis for the decision, and provide information on the adopted means to avoid, minimize and compensate for environmental impacts.
Additional refinement of the preferred alternative will occur before right of way is acquired and the project is let for construction.
May 18, 2016: Recommended Alternatives Chosen
The N.C. Department of Transportation has recommended the following least environmentally damaging routes for the three sections that make up the I-26 Connector (view news release):
- Section A: The recommended alternative, Widening Alternative, includes expanding the existing I-240 four-lane roadway from the I-26/I-240 interchange to the I-240 interchange at Patton Avenue. There would be upgrades to the interchanges at Brevard, Amboy and Haywood road. It would also extend Amboy Road across I-240 to Brevard Road, opposite Shelburne Road. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2)
- Section B: The recommended alternative, Alternative 4B, would put the interstate on a new location, from the Patton Avenue interchange to across the French Broad River just north of the Captain Jeff Bowen bridges, and connect with U.S. 19/23/70. It would allow Patton Avenue to become a local street, opening up access for bicycles and pedestrians along the roadway. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3)
- Section C: The recommended alternative, Alternative F1, calls for upgrades for interchanges at Smokey Park Highway (U.S. 19/23/74A), as well as I-26/I-240 and Brevard Road. It would maintain the existing two-level configuration of the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange and add additional through lanes, as well as a new loop from I-240 West to I-40 East and a ramp from I-40 West to I-240 East. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3)
November 2015: Draft Environmental Impact Statement
NCDOT made the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and updated public hearing maps available online and at several locations in Asheville for public and agency review.
Comments to be considered for the DEIS were accepted until Dec. 16, 2015, and a public meeting and public hearing were held Nov. 16, 2015, during which time the following materials were made available to the public:
The DEIS is the second one for the project. The Federal Highway Administration rescinded the 2008 DEIS because of changes in project alternatives.
- Alternative 2 was eliminated in December 2009 due to unacceptable traffic operations.
- Alternative 3C, a slight modification of Alternative 3, was developed to further reduce impacts to the natural and human environments.
- Alternative 4B, a version of Alternative 4, was added by request of the Asheville Design Center and the City of Asheville.
Preliminary designs and analysis of alternatives were updated in the 2015 DEIS.
September 2015: Project Issues Identified
Several key project issues were identified by the public regarding:
- Bike and pedestrian accommodations
- Concerns about the traffic projection model that would be used to select the preferred alternative
- Impacts associated with the project if it were constructed with six through-lanes as opposed to eight-through lanes in Section A (the widening section of I-240)
These issues were addressed within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and were presented to the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.
June 2015: Project Funding
The I-26 Connector was included in the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which means funding was allocated for right-of-way purchasing and construction efforts.