Part of Asheville on Bikes’ mission is to provide guidance at a state and local level when transportation planning and bicycle infrastructure intersect. During the public comment period of the proposed Interstate 26 Connector project, we felt a strong responsibility to weigh in — not to endorse any single plan — to simply make the priorities of our members’ known as it might apply to any proposed plan. With that in mind, Asheville on Bikes submitted the following letter to the NCDOT and the Asheville City Council.
If you feel motivated to submit comments of your own, before the December 16 deadline, feel free to reference any part of the letter below or these “5 KEY POINTS” and give your comments at https://mysidewalk.com/organizations/290199/comment-form
- Ensure the preferred alternative is consistent with all relevant local plans. This includes on-street bicycle infrastructure identified in the 2008 City of Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan and greenway corridors in the 2013 Asheville Greenways Master Plan.
- Amboy Road should be reduced from a proposed four lanes to two lanes of automobile traffic. This will reduce vehicle speeds and promote the safe movement of bicyclists and pedestrians as they access the French Broad River corridor from their neighborhoods.
- The Haywood Road interchange design should incorporate a separated cycle track to safely move bicyclists on this popular road. A separated cycle track will reduce the potential for collisions and is needed because Haywood Road consistently receives the most bicycle traffic of any road in Asheville, as evidenced in the city’s annual bicycle traffic counts.
- The West Asheville Greenway should include paved access for pedestrians and bicyclists from all local roads that parallel or dead-end into the greenway corridor. This will allow users to access the greenway without traveling on major roads where safety is a greater concern.
- Bicycle lanes should be installed on Patton Avenue east of the Jeff Bowen Bridge to facilitate the safe movement of bicyclists into the downtown area. These bicycle lanes will provide a connection with existing bicycle lanes on Clingman Avenue, Hilliard Avenue, and other streets downtown. This request is also consistent with recommended infrastructure improvements in the 2008 City of Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.
Know the history of the I-26 Corridor Project and Asheville Design Center
AoB’s Letter to the NCDOT…
Re: I-26 Connector
Dear Mr. Joyner,
As an organization that seeks to support and enhance bicycling opportunities in the city of Asheville, we are writing today to submit I-26 comments that relate most specifically to bicycle related matters. Specific comments are listed below and organized by section.
In general, we believe that improvements should align with the Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets Policy, which directs the Department to consider and incorporate several modes of transportation when building new projects or making improvements to existing infrastructure. There are serious bicycle transportation deficiencies within the project scope area, especially in relation to connectivity between neighborhoods that are separated by interstate highways.
We are aligned with the I-26 Connect Us Project Vision, which requests the following points to be reflected in the final design of the project:
- Safe travel for interstate and local traffic.
- Improved connections between neighborhoods and from neighborhoods to major roads for all modes of local traffic – pedestrian, bike, car and bus.
- Minimal destruction of neighborhoods, homes, and businesses and remediation of past highway project impacts on minority and low-wealth communities.
- Maximum return of land to Asheville’s tax base for the City’s use and benefit.
- Minimal harm to air and water quality.
- Improvements that match the scale and character of Asheville.
These comments are not restricted to a particular Section in the project footprint. Rather, they are recommendations for multi-modal transportation infrastructure and safety throughout the entire project area.
Bicycle and pedestrian access should be maintained during construction. This includes signage and temporary replacement access during the times that construction is underway. This is needed to preserve the safe movement of bicyclists and pedestrians and should be provided consistent with NCDOT and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policies.
All changes to “local” (i.e., city and state) streets should incorporate Complete Streets design features. These changes should be consistent with AASHTO and NACTO guidelines and the NCDOT’s Complete Streets policy. This is also needed for consistency with the City of Asheville’s Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (funded and approved by NCDOT) and the Asheville Master Greenway Plan.
AoB does not endorse a single alternative in the Draft EIS. Rather, our comments are structured to provide detailed feedback on site-specific bicycle infrastructure issues that should be incorporated into the preferred alternative published in the Final EIS.
Bicycle infrastructure in the Final EIS should be consistent with the following local plans:
- AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (2012)
- NCDOT bicycle-related laws and policies at http://www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/lawspolicies/
- NCDOT Complete Streets Policy (2009)
- Asheville Master Greenways Plan (2013)
- City of Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (2008; funded and approved by NCDOT)
- Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan (draft 2012)
- Guidelines for Inclusion of Greenway Accommodations Underneath a Bridge as Part of an NCDOT Project
Haywood Road Interchange
Existing levels of bicycle traffic and a pressing need for consistency with local plans necessitate several design changes to the Haywood Road interchange to improve the safe movement of bicyclists. Haywood is the most-bicycled road in Asheville, as identified in the city’s annual bicycle counts and the Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan. In addition, the Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan, which was funded and endorsed by NCDOT, recommends installing bike lanes on Haywood Road. AoB requests the following design features:
Separated cycle tracks should be installed on both sides of Haywood Road in the project area boundary. These lanes should meet NACTO design standards and should be of a minimum width to safely accommodate bicycles and those cyclists pulling child trailers. Bridge crossings with bike infrastructure should have physically separated facilities to meet the growing needs and demand of multimodal transportation. Cycle tracks are a critical infrastructure improvement because this road provides functional connections between key destinations and residential areas of the city. It also provides the primary connection between neighborhoods west of the interchange and the Hall Fletcher Elementary School east of the interchange.
The City’s 2008 Comprehensive Bicycle Plan identified the installation of bicycle lanes. However, since that time separated cycle tracks have become a better-understood design tool. By physically separating bicycle and automobile traffic, NCDOT will better facilitate the safe movement of bicyclists. This is also needed because the increased number of lanes will bring more vehicles and faster moving traffic to Haywood Road. AoB recommends following NACTO design standards for this cycle track.
As with many other stakeholders, AoB recommends the fewest number of lanes on I-240 as possible. From a bicyclist and pedestrian perspective, the increased width of the Haywood Road bridge and associated on- and off- ramps needed to accommodate six or eight lanes of interstate traffic increases safety risks for bicyclists and pedestrians crossing this area. High-speed on- and off-ramps for automobiles likewise increase safety risks for bicyclists and pedestrians who must cross these lanes. AoB requests the fewest number of lanes possible on I-240 (a maximum of six lanes) and the use of design features to slow automobile speeds when entering or exiting the interstate.
West Asheville Greenway
AoB requests that NCDOT continue the West Asheville Greenway route south from Haywood Road to connect to the French Broad River Greenway. This route is a part of the 2013 City of Asheville Greenway Master Plan (adopted November 12, 2013) and it is identified on NCDOT’s visual that shows project area greenways. This is a necessary connection south to Amboy Road and the French Broad River Greenway. The West Asheville Greenway should include connectivity (i.e., a paved connection for bicyclists and pedestrians) at all local streets that dead-end into or intersect the interstate. Examples include Pennsylvania Avenue, Montana Avenue, Kentucky Avenue, Stewart Street, and others. This will allow local residents to safely and easily access the greenway corridor.
West Asheville Greenway
The West Asheville Greenway, north of Worley Historic House, should be routed closer to and parallel to I-26 in order to avoid the steep grade (18%+-) on Hazel Mill Road. The grade on Hazel Mill Road exceeds the recommended grade in AASHTO 2012 Guidelines for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, thus necessitating a route that parallels I-26. The route we are requesting is also consistent with the route that is shown in the 2013 City of Asheville Greenway Master Plan, a plan that NCDOT funded and approved.
AoB believes it is not acceptable to put greenway traffic onto a street, as is shown on the Draft EIS maps on the west side of the French Broad River. Instead a separated greenway corridor should keep bicyclists and pedestrians off roads or, if necessary, along the roads in physically separated cycle tracks. This will improve safety of all users and will be consistent with NCDOT laws and policies, including Complete Streets (adopted by NCDOT in 2012) and Bicycle Policy (NCDOT 1984).
The greenway should have connections with all city and state streets. For example, Dellwood Street, Argyle, Wilmington, Banning, Millbrook, Richland, and Vandalia do not appear to have a connection with the greenway. This will allow local residents to safely access the greenway corridor.
The greenway should not end immediately east of the Jeff Bowen Bridge; it should continue east to Clingman Avenue. This will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safe route to existing bicycle lanes on Clingman Avenue and Hilliard Avenue. Likewise, the spur connecting to the unlabeled street (Google Maps shows it as Trade Street) on the Draft EIS maps should be retained for connectivity.
Patton Avenue is a critical connection to downtown. West of the current I-240 configuration, the road is not bicycle or pedestrian friendly, but the I-26 EIS alternatives will enhance the road’s importance, especially east of the French Broad River. This is because interstate traffic will likely be routed off of the road and because there will be greater connectivity with local streets, making it a natural route for bicyclists and pedestrians accessing the downtown area. This road should include the following bicycle facilities:
Separated Bike Lane
Incorporate a separated bike lane to AASHTO 2012 standards between the Jeff Bowen Bridge and Hazel Mill Road. This would be consistent with the City’s Master Greenway Plan, adopted November 12, 2013, by providing bicycle connectivity with the proposed Smith-Mill Creek Greenway. It would also be consistent with desired bicycle lane installation identified in the City’s Comprehensive Bicycle Plan, which the NCDOT funded and approved. Separated bicycle lane planning and design guidance should follow the best available information, including the Federal Highway Administration’s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide (2014; available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/separated_bikelane_pdg/page00.cfm). From a safety perspective, bicyclists cannot be expected to ride on Patton Avenue west of the Jeff Bowen Bridge without some form of bicycle facility designation such as a separated bike lane.
Incorporate a circular roundabout at the intersection of Clingman Avenue and Patton Avenue. This feature would improve safety, vehicle throughput, bicycle and pedestrian safety, minimize vehicle idling time and associated emissions, and improves connectivity by opening access to West Haywood Street (south of Patton Avenue). The roundabout should be constructed consistent with bicycle and pedestrian traffic guidelines outlined in FHWA document FHWA-RD-00-067 “Roundabouts: An Informational Guide.” This would also become a key urban design feature to welcome visitors to Asheville.
Pedestrian Bridges Over I-240
There should be a greenway-grade overpass connecting to the Hillcrest apartments if Alternatives 3 or 3C are chosen as the preferred alternative. Residents in these apartments currently can only access the downtown area via a caged pedestrian overpass. A greenway-grade overpass will enhance connectivity and bring this overpass up to current design standards. It should be a minimum of 12 feet wide to safely facilitate two-way greenway traffic.
Emma Road is identified in the City of Asheville’s Comprehensive Bicycle Plan as needing a paved shoulder and bicycle lane. To ensure consistency with this plan that NCDOT funded and approved, these features should be incorporated into the Final EIS for the portion of Emma Road located within the project area.
French Broad River Greenway – East Bank
Construction of the French Broad River Greenway – East Bank (see Greenway #8 in the Asheville Master Greenways Plan) north of the Hillcrest Apartments would be impeded by the amount of land taken up by the highway in this area. Buncombe County is starting a feasibility study for this greenway. NCDOT should coordinate with the County to ensure consistency with the Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan.
Adoption of Alternatives 3 or 3C would necessitate additional safety infrastructure installations for bicycle and pedestrian traffic near the Westgate Plaza. These alternatives add additional traffic signals and left turn conflicts that a pedestrian needs to walk through (from Regent Park to Westgate Plaza), adding time and safety considerations that need to be mitigated by following FHWA, NCDOT, AASHTO, and/or NACTO safety measure guidelines and policies.
Amboy Road is identified in the Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan as recommended to have a bike lane. NCDOT funded and approved this plan. Due to the increasing importance of this road as a connection to the popular French Broad River corridor, AoB requests that Amboy Road include sidewalks and a separated two-way cycle track to improve safety. This cycle track should begin in the west at the Shelbourne Road intersection with Hominy Creek Road and continue to the eastern end of the study area near the intersection of Amboy Road and Short Michigan Avenue.
The Amboy Road extension should not have four lanes of vehicle traffic. This exceeds needed capacity and results in greater neighborhood disturbance than is necessary. Instead, there should be one narrower lane in each direction (we recommend 10-foot lane widths consistent with NCDOT design standards for this type of road) to reduce vehicle speed on this residential neighborhood road. Fewer lanes of traffic will keep vehicles closer to the posted speed limit, increasing safety for bicyclists and pedestrians who will use this road as a connection between their neighborhoods and the French Broad River corridor.
Improvements to Amboy Road should be consistent with the Hominy Creek Greenway, especially where this greenway will be routed under the I-26 bridge and along Hominy Creek Road. Specifically, NCDOT should make accommodations for the greenway under the overpass. This is needed to be consistent with NCDOT’s new greenway accommodations policy (http://www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/download/GuidelinesForGreenwayAccommodations.pdf).
Roundabouts with bike lanes should be included on Brevard Road immediately north and south of where it crosses I-240. The City of Asheville’s Master Greenway Plan (adopted November 12, 2013) calls for construction of the Bent Creek Greenway along this road and roundabouts would help facilitate safe bicycle traffic while reducing vehicle queuing. Roundabouts can also help alleviate the need for additional lanes of traffic and can result in the need for a narrower overpass.
Bicycle lanes should be added to Brevard Road. Where located within this project’s boundary, AoB requests inclusion of a minimum five-foot-wide bicycle lane in both directions along Brevard Road. This is consistent with the Asheville Greenways Master Plan and Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (funded and approved by NCDOT). The Master Greenway Plan has identified this section of Brevard Road as part of the Bent Creek Greenway corridor. The Comprehensive Bicycle Plan likewise identifies the need for a lane diet, striping, and/or marking for the portion of Brevard Road that begins at the intersection immediately south of I-240 and continuing north to Haywood Road. For the portion of Brevard Road where it crosses I-40, the Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan calls for a bicycle lane and/or lane diet. AoB believes the current number of lanes can be maintained while adding five-foot-wide (at a minimum) bicycle lanes on either side of this section of road. The Final EIS should be consistent with both of these local plans, especially considering the NCDOT funded and approved the Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.
The State Street underpass in West Asheville should be widened to include five-foot-wide (minimum) bicycle lanes. There should also be replacement and upgrading of pedestrian facilities, including lighting under the overpass. This will improve bicycle flow and pedestrian safety on this portion of State Street. Many residents use State Street to access recreational amenities along the French Broad River corridor or commercial buildings along Haywood Road. Further, State Street is identified in the Asheville Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (funded and approved by NCDOT) as needing striping and marking (i.e., sharrows) to safely accommodate bicycle use. The plan identifies striping a four-foot-wide shoulder for bicycle use; AoB recommends five feet. This will give bicyclists safe room to maneuver (e.g., around debris or other obstacles) and will allow wider bicycles, such as those pulling child trailers, to operate safely. For these reasons, AoB requests five-foot bicycle lane striping on the portion of State Street included in this project (and anywhere bike lanes are provided).
Sand Hill Road
Sand Hill Road, where located within the project footprint, should be improved to incorporate Complete Streets design features, including bicycle lanes and sidewalks, as identified in NCDOT’s Complete Streets policy. This will improve the safe movement of bicycle and pedestrian users by providing dedicated facilities. Sand Hill Road is an important connector to Enka, as evidenced by its inclusion in the City of Asheville Master Greenway Plan (see the Hominy Creek Greenway route in that plan). The Sand Hill Road greenway route was chosen in this plan because it requires the fewest number of interstate crossings. As such it is a vital and critical route. Further, Sand Hill Road, including the portion located within Section C, is identified as a Priority Greenway Corridor in the Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan. It is also identified in that plan as a desired Complete Streets road. For these reasons, please install bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
Bear Creek Road
The new, straighter alignment of this road will increase vehicle speeds, thus making inclusion of a bicycle lane important for user safety. Please install a minimum five-foot-wide bicycle lane on both sides of the portion of this road located in the project area.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. Please contact us at the email address below if additional clarification is needed.
Executive Director, Asheville on Bikes