Approximately 7 miles, the proposed I-26 Connector is an interstate freeway that would connect I-26 in southwest Asheville to U.S. 19/23/70 in northwest Asheville.
The proposed project involve three sections:
- Section A, which involves upgrading I-240 (as well as interchanges at Brevard, Amboy and Haywood roads) – from the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 to the I-240 interchange with Patton Avenue – west of the French Broad River
- Section B, which includes building the interstate on a new location from the Patton Avenue interchange north across the French Broad River, tying into U.S. 19/23/70 south of Broadway
- Section C, which involves improvements to the I-40 interchanges with Smokey Park Highway, I-26/I-240 and Brevard Road
The I-26 Connector would be a median-divided, fully controlled-access freeway accessible only via interchanges. To reduce the required right-of-way, there would be a barrier median dividing opposing directions of travel.
Once complete, the freeway would be part of the I-26 Interstate that extends from Charleston, S.C., to Kingsport, Tenn.
News and Updates
NCDOT is currently moving forward to refine the designs of the preferred alternative, which was recommended in May 2016 (see description of alternatives below). These refinements are based upon the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization’s updated traffic projections as well as input received from the community and City of Asheville in order to have the project better meet the community vision for the project while still meeting federal design and traffic operations standards.
Once designs have been refined, NCDOT will prepare 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 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 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 of 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.
|Final Environmental Impact Statement submitted for approval
|Record of Decision submitted for approval
|Property acquisition start and construction (for Sections B and C)
* Future dates are preliminary and subject to change
Why the I-26 Connector Is Needed
- A better transportation facility is needed to connect I-26 south of Asheville with U.S. 19/23.70 north of Asheville. U.S. 19/23 improvements (from Asheville to the Tennessee state line) allow motorists to travel on a fully controlled-access, median-divided freeway from I-81 near Kingsport, Tenn., to I-240 in Asheville.
I-26 is planned to connect the Port of Charleston, S.C., with the mountains of North Carolina – joining I-240 at the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange southwest of Asheville. I-240 west of Asheville, connects I-26 with U.S. 19/23/70. This freeway, built in the 1960s, does not meet current interstate design standards.
- The existing interchange connecting U.S. 19/23/70 from the north with I-240 contains sharply curved, single-lane ramps. Freeway traffic using this interchange is restricted to one lane in each direction, which causes traffic to back up onto I-240 at its most congested location in Asheville.
- Increasing traffic volumes have substantially reduced the level of service along I-240 on the west side of Asheville. Several sections of I-240 experience traffic delays and traffic back-ups. Traffic congestion and resulting delays will continue to worsen in the future as the population increases.
- I-240 needs improvements. Existing I-240 west of Asheville and the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange do not meet current interstate design standards. Multiple roadway segments west of Asheville currently have higher accident rates than the average rate for similar North Carolina facilities, demonstrating the need for improvements along this section.
- Upgrade the interstate corridor
from I-26 south of Asheville through the U.S. 19/23 interchange to meet design standards for the interstate system. The project would also provide a link in the transportation system connecting a direct, multi-lane freeway facility meeting interstate standards from the Port of Charleston, S.C., to I-81 near Kingsport, Tenn.
- To improve the capacity deficiencies
of existing I-240 west of Asheville to accommodate the existing and forecasted (2033 design year) traffic in this growing area.
- To reduce traffic delays and congestion
along the I-240 crossing of the French Broad River, which operates at capacity.
- To increase the remaining useful service
of the existing Captain Jeff Bowen Bridges (Patton Avenue) by substantially reducing the volume of traffic on this vital crossing of the French Broad River.
Since 1989, NCDOT has held numerous meetings with community leaders, local interest groups, business groups and affected business owners and neighborhood groups about the I-26 Connector project.
The objective of the community outreach program is to solicit input through an open, dynamic process that includes as many residents, business owners, property owners, local agencies, community groups and other stakeholders within the project study area as possible. This process is structured to involve people early and often and to share information as it becomes available.
A variety of techniques has been and will continue to be used to ensure meaningful involvement from the community.
Get Involved, Stay Informed
Public participation and feedback is integral to the project development process. By sharing your ideas and concerns, you can help us identify appropriate transportation solutions in your community.
Comments can be submitted to the project contact listed at the bottom of this page under Contact Information.
Project Point-of-View Photo Simulations
At the request of the public and the city of Asheville, NCDOT has prepared a map of 19 360-degree photo simulations for Section B Alternative 4B, in addition to the project visualization NCDOT presented at the 2015 public hearing. These photo simulations can assist in visualizing what the proposed project might look like from various points of view throughout the study area.
The visuals were prepared using the project designs as shown on the 2015 public hearing maps.
These images are considered a preliminary view of the proposed project, as NCDOT is currently refining the designs of the preferred alternative for all sections of the project. Once these designs have been finalized, NCDOT will update the project visualization as well as the 360-degree photos.
I-240 looking west toward Jeff Bowen Bridges
Eastbound I-240 looking north toward Patton Ave.
U.S. 19/23/70 southbound off-ramp toward Patton Ave.
Eastbound I-240 east of
Jeff Bowen Bridges
I-240 West service road west of Jeff Bowen Bridges
I-240 & U.S. 19/23/70/Patton Ave. Interchange
I-240 at U.S. 19/23 Business (Haywood Street)
Michael Wray, P.E.
Project Planning Engineer, Central Unit
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