June 18, 2018
French Broad River MPO
339 New Leicester Highway
Asheville, NC 28804
Dear MPO leaders:
On behalf of our members and supporters, Asheville on Bikes and MountainTrue write in opposition to cascading Section A of the I-26 Connector Project from the statewide to the regional tier of projects. We firmly believe that negotiations between the City of Asheville and NCDOT on outstanding design questions related to the Connector Project should be completed and incorporated into the final Environmental Impact Statement before the project moves forward. We cannot support cascading Section A until this occurs.
We recognize that the City’s negotiations with NCDOT to date have produced several good outcomes including new bike/pedestrian facilities, good greenway connections, a Section A with six lanes instead of eight, and a much-improved redesign of the Amboy Road interchange (though no one has yet seen revised maps that reflect these design improvements). However, there has not yet been success in determining the number of lanes going across the river and in the design of the Patton Avenue/Bowen Bridge corridor. The City of Asheville remains committed to making this corridor a multi-modal, urban boulevard that serves as a gateway to downtown, but NCDOT is not yet committed to these outcomes.
Until negotiations with NCDOT are complete and the drawings are updated so that the City can say with confidence that the project will increase livability for the residents of Asheville, advance active transportation, and meet the City’s vision for the redevelopment of Patton Ave, we stand with the City of Asheville in opposing cascading Section A. We strongly encourage NCDOT to continue to work with the City of Asheville to reach agreement on these critical design issues.
Mike Sule, Executive Director
Asheville on Bikes
Bob Wagner, Co-Director
To support Asheville on Bikes and Mountain True, please send emails supporting our position to these members of the MPO:
For those getting up to speed, here is the background on this project. For many years a large project has been moving forward to rebuild I-26 through Asheville. That project was split into three sections, Section A (from just north of I-40 through West Asheville; includes Amboy Rd, Haywood Rd), Section B (the section involving the Patton Ave bridge and relocating I-26 traffic to a new interstate bridge), and Section C (the upgrades on and around the I-26, I-40 interchange near Brevard Rd). This entire project was planned as a state level need, and sections B and C are funded from a pool of state funds that goes to top level, important regional projects. Section A failed to meet a required threshold for that same funding source and, unless of some other action was taken, just the Section A portion would be delayed until it rose in priority (because of congestion) to qualify for state-level funding, above the regional level. “Cascading” is the term for taking a project that could have been funded at the state level and bringing it down into the regional pool of road building funds, in this case controlled by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (FBRMPO), which oversees road projects in Western NC. When a project cascades, the region is deciding to use its own more limited pool of state money to build a project sooner. In May, the FBRMPO voted in a preliminary vote in favor of cascading, contrary to the City of Asheville’s position. In June they will vote again and decide officially if cascading is to happen. To watch the actual meeting from May, which is very interesting, you can watch the video of the public meeting on the FBRMPO Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/118925928126314/videos/1955901087762113/
Timecodes for that video:
And here is NCDOT’s overview map, showing the three sections: https://xfer.services.ncdot.gov/PDEA/Web/I26/I-2513_Overview%20Map.pdf
One of the main issues surrounding the decision to cascade is that the NCDOT has not presented a public design for the 6 lane version of this project, or presented modified designs that fully reflect the changes needed to allow for Amboy, Haywood, Patton and other streets to function well as Complete Streets. The City, AoB, and Mountain True want NCDOT to present that finished work, among other points. You can see this for yourself on the NCDOT project website, which shows the same 8 lane designs that have been contested for years by City residents, as of 6/20/2018.