After a hearing this week, the final period for the public to weigh in on the Interstate 26 Connector project in Asheville has arrived. The scale of the project, and all the changes it will bring to communities in West Asheville along Interstate’s 40, 240, and 26 cannot be understated. Among the many changes would be additional lanes on I-40 between the Smoky Park Highway and Brevard Road exits, as well as on I-240/I-26 in West Asheville. The most expensive part of the project involves building new fly-over bridges that will allow through traffic on I-26 to bypass the Bowen Bridge and Patton Avenue.
All the various designs were unveiled this week at a public hearing Tuesday at the Asheville Renaissance Hotel. The public now has until January 4th to give its feedback according to David Yuchiyama of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “The footprint is essentially set," he says. "Within that footprint there is certainly room for negotiations, for changes, for adaptations, and for new ideas.” An additional public hearing will take place next year after the January 4th deadline
Hundreds of homes and businesses in West Asheville will be displaced by the project, regardless of the final design. The state has already set up the process to begin negotiating with those business and home owners, even though acquisition of the land is not scheduled to take place until 2020. Construction is slated to start that year as well. Currently, the price tag for the whole I-26 connector project is $950 million.