The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has made a commitment to facilitate the critical completion of the I-26 Connector Project.
Beginning in the 1980’s with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), the I-26 Connector remains uncompleted and now has one of the highest accident rates in North Carolina, three decades later. To ensure the safety and economic success of our region, we’re encouraging our community to “Get Moving on I-26.”
Get Moving on I-26!
Gwen Wisler and Julie Mayfield need to hear from you now: Support a Yes vote at the MPO for Cascading the I-26 Section A Project
The French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will take a preliminary vote on Thursday, May 24th about the option to cascade funding from the Statewide Mobility into the Regional Tier for Section A of the I-26 project. Section A is the portion of I-26 and I-240 redesign west of the French Broad River through West Asheville.
The MPO will take a final vote on June 28th.
What you can do:
Please contact City Council’s MPO representatives Julie Mayfield, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Gwen Wisler, email@example.com, and ask them to vote FOR cascading, and not delay the funding for the last section of I-26.
What is cascading?
Cascading is a funding mechanism that enables a transportation project to move forward by shifting the funding priority from a statewide tier to a regional tier. It has the effect of moving a project up the priority list and getting it done faster, and in this case, more in line with the other two pieces of the I-26 project.
A vote must be held by the regional planning authority, in this case the MPO, for a state level project to be cascaded. The staff of the MPO has recommended that the project be cascaded. Without this vote of support, the project will be delayed.
Why would two Asheville City Council members vote against cascading the project?
Members of the Asheville City Council are currently opposed to cascading funding for section A because designs are still being negotiated between NCDOT and City of Asheville. They are using this vote as a negotiation tactic with the mistaken thought that they can pressure NCDOT into changes they want to see made.
NCDOT has already shown its willingness to work with the community on bike/pedestrian and greenway improvements within the project. There has also been collaboration on reducing the number of lanes through West Asheville from 8 to 6. DOT leaders have indicated their willingness to continue to work on refining designs to meet community standards as the funding and design processes continue. So why delay funding when it is at hand? We should continue to work with DOT on the designs but go ahead and obtain the funding while we have the opportunity.
What are the implications if Asheville City Council members vote against cascading the project?
Asheville has lost funding for I-26 before and it can happen again. There is no guarantee that because two sections of the I-26 project have been funded that the third will be funded as well. Section A must achieve the required ranking just like the other sections did. And without the regional vote of approval it is unlikely to make the cut.
Improving I-26 has been a community priority for over 20 years. Hard won changes to the statewide funding criteria and extensive lobbying got the I-26 project back on the statewide priority list. We do not need to again lose infrastructure funding to another area of the state.
The next opportunity to cascade the project will not occur for another 2-3 years, effectively delaying the project. And who knows what kind of economic climate, regulatory environment or construction costs we will face by that time.
Of special interest to West Asheville residents, a delay in funding by a few years could trigger a new traffic study, which could reopen the issue of 6 lanes versus 8 lanes.
Section A is the center section of the project. It makes more sense to do the whole project at one time. A delay in the center section would mean a bottleneck in West Asheville, causing unsafe conditions and accidents that will hurt residents and put more of a burden on local emergency response providers.
Need more info?
Link to the NCDOT visualization of the I-26 project.
Tell Asheville City Council to support I-26’s completion
Please contact all city council members and let them know you support the cascading of funds for section A of the I-26 widening project. But especially contact our MPO representatives, Gwen Wisler and Julie Mayfield. Tell them you want to get moving on I-26!
Email your support for cascading of Section A of the I-26 project: