Tell NCDOT that bikes matter!

The North Carolina Department of Transportation held a public comment session in April regarding proposed changes to the I-26 / 191 (Brevard Road) interchange. Major concerns remain after that meeting. NCDOT will accept comments via email until this Wednesday, May 8. NCDOT’s plan is in clear violation of its own policies and ignores both the Buncombe County Greenways Master Plan and the City of Asheville Bike Plan. Asheville on Bikes urgently invites you to tell NCDOT that these guidelines matter and that all people deserve safe transportation options.

Show your support for cyclists and pedestrians in Buncombe County! Cut and paste the following and send it to Anthony Tata, Secretary of Transportation (ajtata@ncdot.gov), Michael Wray, NCDOT Project Development and Environmental Analysis Unit (mgwray@ncdot.gov), and AoB (ashevilleonbikes@gmail.com) before this Wednesday, May 8.

If you’d like to step away from the computer screen for a moment, you can also have your say by calling Michael Wray at (919) 707-6050.

Dear Mr. Tata and Mr. Wray:

NCDOT’s proposed changes to the I-26 / Brevard Road (191) interchange in Buncombe County stand in clear violation of NCDOT’s own Complete Streets Guidelines and Healthy Transportation Policy, and disregard both the NCDOT/MPO-funded Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan and the NCDOT-funded City of Asheville Bicycle Plan. I urge you to bring this project into compliance with these guidelines, for the benefit of all road users.

This project currently does not accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive–all groups expressly mentioned in NCDOT’s Complete Streets Guidelines. The pedestrian and bicycle facilities included on this project are minimal or inconsistent in how they were presented at the recent public comment session, and NCDOT’s handouts failed to mention any mode of transportation beyond the vehicular. In failing to accommodate access for all users, the design elements shown at the workshop do not comply with the “Purpose of the Project” statement, which acknowledges that “NC 191 (Brevard Road) connects residential, workplace, shopping, recreational, and visitor destinations in South Asheville.” With Asheville’s designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community, the enormous economic benefit of bicycle infrastructure, and multimodal transportation on the rise nationwide, surely NCDOT doesn’t believe that these connections occur only by car and truck?

When our own citizens are left out of project considerations, and when state and local guidelines are cast aside, we all lose. I ask you to ensure that this major project complies with the NCDOT Complete Streets Guidelines, the NCDOT Healthy Transportation Policy, Buncombe County’s Greenways Master Plan, and the City of Asheville’s Bicycle Plan. The changes you make will have a lasting impact on the people who live, work, and travel through Buncombe County, and I urge you to remember travelers in all modes of transportation as you complete this project.

Thank you,
Concerned Citizen and Cyclist

For more detailed information, including links to all policies and plans mentioned, read on:

Lack of adherence to NCDOT’s Complete Streets Policy and Guidelines: NCDOT’s Complete Streets policy (2009) states a few things that are not adequately addressed in this project:

  • NCDOT’s Complete Streets Guidelines state (p. 13): ”This complete streets approach aligns with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) 2010 policy statement for complete streets, which states that ‘Transportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.’ The policy also states that “The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal aid project developments.”
  • We do not believe that Complete Streets, as defined above and in NCDOT’s Complete Streets materials, means building the absolute minimum accommodations necessary, which is what has been done with this project. This project does not accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive and people who choose not to drive. The pedestrian and bicycle facilities included on this project are minimal or inconsistent in how they were presented at the workshop.
  • The handouts distributed at the workshop only reference vehicular Level of Service, with nothing mentioned about level or quality of service for other modes and how NCDOT considered this project in the context of Complete Streets and its own associated policies.
  • In failing to accommodate access for all users, the design elements shown at the workshop do not appear to comply with the “Purpose of the Project” statement acknowledging that “NC 191 (Brevard Road) connects residential, workplace, shopping, recreational, and visitor destinations in South Asheville.” Is NCDOT only considering that these connections are only to occur by car and truck?

Inconsistency between I-26/NC 191 project and the NCDOT-funded City of Asheville Bicycle Plan (2008): The City’s bicycle plan was funded by a planning grant from NCDOT. Part of NCDOT’s pitch in awarding such grants is that cities will be in a position to have the recommendations of these plans incorporated into NCDOT project design.

  • The bicycle plan notes the conditions for shared lanes (p.32 of the City’s Bicycle Plan) but NCDOT did not follow this in its proposed design, which included a 14-foot shared outside lane: “Shared Roadways: Shared roadways are streets and roads where bicyclists can be served by sharing the travel lanes with motor vehicles. Usually, these are streets with low traffic volumes and/or low speeds, which do not need special bicycle accommodations in order to be bicycle-friendly.” This does not reflect the conditions on NC 191-Brevard Road.
  • Page 54 of the City’s Bicycle Plan illustrates route recommendations with Brevard Road showing a need for Bicycle Lanes. A bridge built over an interchange is likely to have a 50-75-year life span. This decision will nullify the publicly-vetted recommendations of the City’s Bicycle Plan for that timeframe. Page 60 indicates this bicycle lane should be accommodated through roadway construction and a lane diet, neither of which was on display in the drawings provided at the workshop.
  • Page 61: “Action 1.1: Provide Bicycle Facilities on Designated Streets…where bike lanes are recommended…” includes Brevard Road. Brevard Road is not listed with the set of Shared Roadways.

Inconsistency between I-26/NC 191 project and NCDOT/MPO-funded Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan (2012): The plan was adopted in September 2012 showing a multi-use pathway along the east side of NC 191, following the DOT right-of-way to a culvert south of the interchange. County staff met with NCDOT Division 13 staff in summer 2012, prior to adoption of the plan and when it was known that NCDOT is looking at the I-26/NC 191 interchange.

  • During the workshop, only reasons to not accommodating the greenway plan along right-of-way were given, with representatives acting as if it couldn’t happen. It sounded as if a “final design decision” had been made to not accommodate the greenway despite statements in the meeting handouts to the contrary.
  • This violates the tenets of NCDOT’s Complete Streets and Health-Transportation policies in several ways.