I want to respond to your recent pieces on the Interstate 26 Connector [“Big Ideas,” Jan. 8 and “Connecting,” Jan. 15, Xpress]. Your first piece described the Connector as a “big idea.” I would argue that the I-26 Connector has been an idea that has not been big enough.
As you implied in your second piece, highway planners and community activists have been talking past each other for decades. One side wanted to move more vehicles, and the other side wanted to preserve Asheville's character. Often these sides looked at their “opponents’” goals as contradicting their own goals (mea culpa).
I think that the way out of this long-running feud is to transform this “highway” project into a “transportation” project. In 2009, NCDOT made a policy change that helped put the “T” back into NCDOT. This policy states “Complete Streets is North Carolina’s approach to interdependent, multimodal transportation networks that safely accommodate access and travel for all users.” NCDOT realized that designing for many types of transportation is good for citizens, the environment and the economy.
During the past year the feuding I-26 Connector groups have begun to come together around a big idea: to build an integrated transportation corridor that will allow people to move safely to the places they want to go — whether by car, truck, bike or foot. With this new vision as a focus I think we can find transportation solutions that help Asheville's economy and quality of life.
While I fully realize that a project of this scope will be highly disruptive during construction, I think that a well-planned, integrated, multi-modal transportation corridor will ultimately make Asheville a more vibrant city.
— Tom Burnet