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Asheville I-26 Connector; Long Delay Probable

Started by Grzrd, August 21, 2010, 05:46:54 PM

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Grzrd

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010308040024

Quote
Wait for I-26 Connector project in Asheville area could get much, much longer
By Mark Barrett - August 4, 2010
PageASHEVILLE – Proposed changes in state road construction priorities could push the start of the I-26 Connector beyond 2020, resulting in at least a six-year delay from current plans.
A draft priority list developed by the state Department of Transportation puts the I-26 Connector next to last among the 21 "loop"  freeway projects planned to be built in or near cities across the state.
DOT has been hoping construction could begin as soon as 2014, said Derrick Weaver, a project engineer on the I-26 Connector.
In theory, the new list means it could be more than 45 years before construction of the project.
The list and the formula used to develop it are the product of an effort by DOT to reduce the role of politics in road construction decisions.
Short on cash
With $8 billion in loop projects planned and only $150 million a year to build them, it is inevitable that some projects would be delayed unless other means to finance them are found, said DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty. It would take 53 years for an annual appropriation of $150 million to add up to $8 billion.
"The issue that we have is that we just don't have anywhere close to enough money,"  she said.
The connector would involve reconfiguring the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange to the west of town, widening Interstate 240 in West Asheville to eight lanes and building a new section of freeway across the French Broad River.
The connector is designed to reduce congestion on Smoky Park Bridge and through West Asheville. Its route and width have been the source of controversy for years and the projected start of construction has been pushed back several times.
Another delay would result in more traffic backups on the bridge and in West Asheville, but would also postpone the time when neighborhoods near I-240 would be disrupted.
"We have some problems now, obviously, with (traffic) delays, congestion. There are safety-related issues and those would continue and probably accelerate as (traffic levels) increase,"  said Rick Lutovsky, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and a strong connector backer.
But Montford resident Michael McDonough said others would welcome any postponement.
"A lot of the people I talk to prefer nothing be done,"  he said.
McDonough was involved in drawing up a local alternative route for the connector that would reserve Smoky Park Bridge for local traffic, but he said as DOT has modified that alternate, "It has steadily gotten worse"  and he no longer supports it.
By the numbers
DOT has been developing a way of ranking projects using numeric factors like cost, traffic loads, reduction in congestion and the expected impact on safety for several months and has asked local government officials for input several times, Beaty said.
The state Board of Transportation is supposed to get its first look at the list and the formula behind it next week, she said. DOT will then solicit public comments on both early next year and plans to adopt a new schedule for when loop projects will be built in summer of 2011.
It is going through a similar process for other projects and also plans adoption of a new schedule for them next year.
When Gov. Bev Perdue took office in 2009, "One of the things that she said off the bat was that she wanted to have politics taken out of the transportation. To do that, we needed to have a data-driven process,"  Beaty said.
The formula used to come up with the draft priority list for loop projects probably will not change much, but there will be ways that metropolitan areas could speed construction of loop projects, Beaty said.
Communities could endorse postponing work on other highway spending in an area, seek funds from a new pot of money DOT hopes will expand to $300 million annually in a few years, back changes to a loop project to make it less expensive or ask DOT to build only the most important part of a project.
Weaver said the I-26 Connector could cost $400 million to $600 million, depending on what route choices are made.
Engineers working on the project hope to complete a supplemental environmental document that would include more study of the locally generated alternative by the end of the year and choose a route in summer 2011, he said.
The projected cost of the I-26 Connector has risen over the years because of inflation and various changes or additions sought by DOT and community members.
Local residents pushed DOT to include a reconfiguration of the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange near the Western North Carolina Farmers Market and the local alternative. Both are likely to carry large price tags
DOT has insisted I-240 be eight lanes through West Asheville despite some community opposition. Six lanes would presumably be less expensive, although DOT engineers have said the savings would not be huge.
Lutovsky said connector backers will be pushing hard to prevent another significant delay for the project.
"This is obviously frustrating to those of us who have been involved with this project for many years to be told that construction would begin on a certain date. Then to be told that it would be put off until 2020 is disappointing,"  he said.
While the list and formula are subject to change, "It is not encouraging to be at the bottom of the list to start,"  Lutovsky said.


FLRoads

If the connector will not begin until 2020 or thereafter, then why even bother building it? And how much will it end up costing if it were built after 2020? Close to a billion dollars? I say don't build it, truncate Interstate 26 back to its original end at Interstate 40 and reinstate Interstate 181.

rickmastfan67

Quote from: flaroads on August 21, 2010, 10:45:38 PM
If the connector will not begin until 2020 or thereafter, then why even bother building it? And how much will it end up costing if it were built after 2020? Close to a billion dollars? I say don't build it, truncate Interstate 26 back to its original end at Interstate 40 and reinstate Interstate 181.

TN would never give up I-26.  Once a state gets a 2di on a former 3di, I've never seen it changed (exception would be in the Pittsburgh area where I-79 > I-279 and I-76 > I-376).

Alps

Quote from: rickmastfan67 on August 22, 2010, 11:00:04 PM
Quote from: flaroads on August 21, 2010, 10:45:38 PM
If the connector will not begin until 2020 or thereafter, then why even bother building it? And how much will it end up costing if it were built after 2020? Close to a billion dollars? I say don't build it, truncate Interstate 26 back to its original end at Interstate 40 and reinstate Interstate 181.

TN would never give up I-26.  Once a state gets a 2di on a former 3di, I've never seen it changed (exception would be in the Pittsburgh area where I-79 > I-279 and I-76 > I-376).

In your example, though, those weren't former 3di's - those were originally 2di's later shifted away.  Another example would be I-95 ME (now 295).
One instance I know of a 2di moved onto a 3di and back again: I-95 around Wilmington on I-495 (though that was known to be temporary).

FLRoads

Well that was just wishful dreaming on my part... :spin: I do know that Interstate 26 north of Asheville is here to stay and will not get reverted back to Interstate 181. I happened to read this thread when I was in one of my ranting moods.

I just sometimes get mad at the fact that we as a country have gotten so poor that it takes 10-20-sometimes 30+ years to complete a road project, when it only took a decade or so to complete so much of the interstate system back in the late 1950's into the 1960's. With NIMBY's, environmentalists and environmental impact statements constantly intruding on progress, it now takes so long for a road project to be completed from beginning to end. For instance, here in Florida it takes two and a half years to complete an upgrade of a three mile section of a mostly rural stretch of two-lane road to a four-lane road? And three years or more to complete one interchange? And that is if any funding is in place.

Maybe I am thinking about it the wrong way, but it sure seemed that back in the day that interstates, interchanges, and simple upgrades of highways and roads did not take as long. Just my opinion...

Revive 755

^ What's worse is that road projects ought to be able to be designed much faster and more accurately nowadays; I don't believe MicroStation and other CAD programs were around back when the interstates were being designed.

I'll second the EIS and other environmental processes are getting out of hand.  There should be a chance for feedback from the general public, but less bureaucratic hurdles that can also be used to delay a project in court for many years.

That said, I see a couple potential projects in Missouri where I might end up changing my mind on this.

JREwing78

I would support a 50 cents/gallon hike in gas taxes if it would uncork the logjam in improving highways. Send 10 cents of it to building out a genuinely high-speed rail network.

That IS the difference between then and now - we've been spending less and less on transportation relative to inflation for decades.

agentsteel53

Quote from: JREwing78 on August 30, 2010, 11:14:06 PM
I would support a 50 cents/gallon hike in gas taxes if it would uncork the logjam in improving highways.

three dollars per gallon hike would get rid of highway logjams in a far more direct manner.
live from sunny San Diego.

http://shields.aaroads.com

jake@aaroads.com

Grzrd

#8
Quote from: flaroads on August 23, 2010, 10:10:35 PM
With NIMBY's, environmentalists and environmental impact statements constantly intruding on progress, it now takes so long for a road project to be completed from beginning to end ... Maybe I am thinking about it the wrong way, but it sure seemed that back in the day that interstates, interchanges, and simple upgrades of highways and roads did not take as long...
Came across a Twitter report about business reaction to the probable delay:

http://www.mountainx.com/news/2010/cibo_reviews_development_rules_swears_to_fight_for_i-26_connector

Quote
CIBO reviews development rules, swears to fight for I-26 connector
by David Forbes on 08/06/2010
The following is an aggregate of Senior Reporter David Forbes' live Twitter-based coverage of this morning's meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners. You can follow Forbes on Twitter @DavidForbes:
...
8:23 AM  CIBO member on I-26: "We got the shank... They studied this to death. Write some letters; this will affect your bottom line"  #avlnews
8:24 AM  He says economy would be "booming"  if I-26 interchange was built. "Interstate what train tracks used to be"  #avlnews
8:26 AM  Avl planning board mem Buzzy Cannady: "I can't believe this,"  CIBO needs to go to local politicians, governor on I-26 #avlnews
8:27 AM  CIBO member speaking on I-26 was Mac Swicegood #avlnews
There are no comments for this entry.

Crazy Volvo Guy

#9
Quote from: agentsteel53 on August 30, 2010, 11:15:13 PMthree dollars per gallon hike would get rid of highway logjams in a far more direct manner.

Sure, unfortunately it would fuck over roadtrippers like us much more than the "I drive 3 miles to work every day even though I could ride a bike in decent time most days" type people.
I hate Clearview, because it looks like a cheap Chinese ripoff.

I'm for the Red Sox and whoever's playing against the Yankees.

agentsteel53

Quote from: US-43|72 on September 03, 2010, 04:14:50 AM
Sure, unfortunately it would fuck over roadtrippers like us much more than the "I drive 3 miles to work every day even though I could ride a bike in decent time most days" type people.

not really.  the steady grind of the daily commute would end you.

of course, you wouldn't notice - if you're the kind of person that drives the same route 3 miles there and 3 miles back every day, you're pretty oblivious to life passing you by already.
live from sunny San Diego.

http://shields.aaroads.com

jake@aaroads.com

Grzrd

#11
No money allocated for I-26 Connector in 2011-20 TIP:

http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110330/NEWS/303300035/0/FRONTPAGE/High-cost-dooms-26-Connector?odyssey=nav%7Chead

Quote
... The Board of Transportation is scheduled to adopt the TIP in July.
In a dramatic shift from the last plan adopted two years ago, the 2011-20 TIP contains no money for the I-26 Connector, a huge project that would include widening Interstate 240 in West Asheville, revamping the I-240/I-40/I-26 interchange on the west side of town and building new bridges across the French Broad River.
DOT says it does not have enough money to build all of the "urban loop"  projects, like the connector, that have been proposed. The I-26 Connector has relatively higher costs and lower benefits than the other projects it is competing with for funds, according to DOT figures.
Proffitt said it is DOT's intention that the new TIP is a more realistic plan than older versions that made promises that could not be fulfilled.
"In the old days, we would put out a list and only do about half of what was on the list,"  she said. The percentage of projects on the proposed TIP that will actually get built should be closer to 85 or 90 percent, she said...

Crazy Volvo Guy

#12
Quote from: agentsteel53 on September 03, 2010, 10:20:29 AM
Quote from: US-43|72 on September 03, 2010, 04:14:50 AM
Sure, unfortunately it would fuck over roadtrippers like us much more than the "I drive 3 miles to work every day even though I could ride a bike in decent time most days" type people.

not really.  the steady grind of the daily commute would end you.

of course, you wouldn't notice - if you're the kind of person that drives the same route 3 miles there and 3 miles back every day, you're pretty oblivious to life passing you by already.

You missed my point.  People who live close enough to their place of work who COULD take other means of transportation (i.e. bike, bus) but still drive are the people who would be least affected by a dramatic and arbitrary increase in the cost of gas, while driving with a purpose (i.e. actually traveling) would be suffocated into unaffordability.

A much better solution would be to hike the price of gas within metro areas but keep it cheap out in the country.
I hate Clearview, because it looks like a cheap Chinese ripoff.

I'm for the Red Sox and whoever's playing against the Yankees.

Buummu

I do not think the connector is needed.. all it should be done is redesign the US 19/23 interchange with I-240 where the interstate exit off from itself, and the US 19/23/70 interchange just to the east of the French Broad River, and bam... interstate design can happen... It wouldn't cost a lot to redesign the interchanges and save a bunch of money for other means of transportation.

Grzrd

#14
Quote from: Buummu on April 24, 2011, 10:12:22 PM
I do not think the connector is needed.. all it should be done is redesign the US 19/23 interchange with I-240 where the interstate exit off from itself, and the US 19/23/70 interchange just to the east of the French Broad River, and bam... interstate design can happen... It wouldn't cost a lot to redesign the interchanges and save a bunch of money for other means of transportation.

Asheville is now looking for lower cost alternatives ...

http://www.bucyrustelegraphforum.com/article/B0/20110331/OPINION01/303310007/Connector-shelved-Smoky-Park-bridge-snarl-live-on?odyssey=nav%7Chead

Quote
Did we just talk the Interstate 26 Connector to death?
Two decades of often divisive debate, visioning sessions, artist renderings, community meetings, not to mention $14 million spent by the state for planning, have brought us no closer to clearing up the snarl of highway where two interstates converge across the congested Smoky Park Bridge ... Now we may be lucky to get anything done in the rest of the 21st century ... Some may be breathing a sigh of relief at the demise of a massive project that would have dramatically changed the face of Asheville by expanding I-26's footprint from four lanes to eight ....
But a very real problem remains with the chokepoint of traffic on the Smoky Park Bridge. Each day, cars and trucks compete with local commuters on I-240 east, trying to merge left to a single curved lane to exit onto I-26. That is a guaranteed design for accidents, ranging from fender-benders to potential fatalities ... Everyone involved in that debate wanted the best for the community, from business leaders who wanted better traffic flow to advocates who wanted to protect neighborhoods from an overbuilt highway.
It took years of debate and study for the DOT and community planners to come up with various options ... other communities who had consensus on their highway improvements may have stepped ahead of Asheville in the state's timetable.
We may not have reached consensus as a community on exactly which design was best for Asheville. We should all agree that something still needs to be done about that crossing over the French Broad River that won't tie up traffic or threaten life and limb of visitors and our residents ... Scaling back the Connector project's $556 million price tag, by dividing it into smaller segments, is a logical next step to making the road a state priority once more ... Let's hope we don't just talk about this road for another 20 years before the state can use our tax dollars to fix our traffic woes.

Buummu

wow.. that sucks.. well, i do agree with that there has to be done with that Smokey Park bridge.... Thanks for the info, Grzrd.

Alex

Article passed along to me by Carter:

I-26 Asheville Connector Debate Continues

QuoteWalter Kulash, an Orland-based traffic engineer and North Carolina State University graduate, was invited to speak in Asheville on the proposed widening of I-240 by opponents of the DOT plan. The proposed DOT plan will result in the loss of 106 residences and 60 businesses in the West Asheville area and has galvanized opposition against the current DOT proposal.

Traffic Engineer Walter Kulash feels widening the I-26 connector to eight lanes is unnecessary and will not achieve its desired objective of reducing traffic congestion. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has proposed to widen I-240 to eight lanes to counter future traffic congestion. However, according to Kulash, "build it and they will come" will be the net result of additional traffic lanes. Additional traffic lanes will simply attract more traffic and result in the subsequent traffic congestion during peak traffic periods.

The proposed widening is part of a larger project called the Asheville Connector, which would involve widening I-240 between the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange and the west end of the Smoky Park Bridge and building a four-lane freeway to bypass the bridge and connect with U.S. 19-23-70 near Montford.

Kulash asked the question, "does traffic really have to flow freely during the peak of the day, or can it slow down to 25 to 30 mph?" Kuslash feels that if I-240 remained a four-land highway, but with improved entrance/exit ramps, the projected 2020 traffic volume would flow at acceptable rates even during peak traffic periods.

Recently elected AshevilleCity Councilman Brian Peterson said at a recent Asheville City Council meeting, "I'm concerned that we're not looking at all the options. I-240, as it is now, is a Berlin wall in West Asheville. It divides the community. It's going to further divide West Asheville."

"This project is not set in stone," Kulash said. "There are still opportunities for input from the community." He encouraged Asheville and Buncombe County residents to voice their opposition at future DOT hearings and to encourage their council representatives to seek alternative solutions for the I-26 Connector Plan.



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