AC-T: NCDOT trying to speed work on I-26 Connector

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The state Department of Transportation proposes changing the way it will build and pay for the I-26 Connector in hopes of speeding up work on the massive highway project that will cut through the city.

Officials say the steps may accelerate completion by a few months or might mean work will be completed a year or more sooner, but it is too soon to say what the exact impact will be on the $750 million project. A draft DOT document puts completion of two segments at 2024, which would be a year earlier than previously planned for the part of the project involving new bridges over the French Broad River.

Work on a new bridge north of Bowen Bridge and a new I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange on the west side of town could begin as soon as 2020, according to a draft schedule for transportation projects statewide DOT released earlier this month. However, officials say it could be a year or more after that date before construction would start full-scale.

The draft plan contains no money to widen I-240 in West Asheville. The plan runs through 2027 and is to be adopted in June after a series of public hearings to be held by DOT and the local French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Adding lanes to I-240 from the Patton Avenue interchange near West Gate to its interchange with I-26 and I-40 is the third segment of the I-26 Connector, but its place among DOT priorities has dropped after the agency began using more numerical data like congestion measures and accident rates to rank proposed projects. The current version of DOT’s master plan, adopted in 2015, does not contain any money to widen I-240 either.

Read on. This might be good news, but given the way this saga has dragged on over the years, it might just be more of the same.

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