Cars are not our future. Or they are our future, if we want to continue to be out of synch with the earth and to plunge deeper into environmental devastation. The NCDOT’s proposed plans for the I-26 Connector through Asheville are based on the past. Rather than implementing these outdated ideas, we can turn our imaginations towards a car-free future. In the meantime, let’s use our voices to tell the NCDOT to go back to the drawing board at the least.
Write to NCDOT Public Involvement in care of Jamille Robbins, 1598 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1598, or call (919)707-6085. Comments will be only be accepted through Jan. 4, so now’s the time to act.
After the recent NCDOT public hearing about the proposed project Nancy Asch wrote: “depressing tonight. it is ludicrous in 2018, in the midst of climate change all around us, to go ahead with this monstrosity that is tons and tons of concrete to further encourage cars in stead of coming together to creatively solve problems here that deal with sustainability, public transportation, good quality of life and good health outcomes. we have pretty much destroyed much of our mtn town through greed, over development through hotels for tourism, and more… when will we all stand up and say no.. we are at a shaky tipping point.. if this goes through as planned.. we are in deep shit here if we care about this city staying livable, healthy, and looking to the future.”
David Forbes of the Asheville Blade posted a round up of their live coverage of the NCDOT hearing (click that text to read) and shared these points:
• The proposal, through stripped down from previous ones, would still demolish 150+ homes, businesses and community spaces, many in black, latinx and lower-income communities.
• DoT has asserted the resulting nearly $1 billion interstate project will be safer, ease congestion and reduce truck travel time from Charleston to Kingsport (that latter one didn’t exactly go over well with the locals).
• Most of the crowd (and it was a packed house) were adamantly against the proposal itself. “Go back to the drawing board” was a phrase that came up a lot. Critics made the point about the sheer damage done to existing communities and the fact that many cities are looking to tear down interstates, not build more. The basic idea of I-26 is based on plans hatched by local gentry and DoT planners in the late ’80s and things are, to put it mildly, just a bit different now.
• Asheville City Council’s approach has been to try and work with DoT to reduce the impact (earlier proposals called for taking 200+ homes) and get some transportation improvements they want. This approach came under a lot of criticism at this hearing (the term “lipstick on a pig” came up).
• Council member Julie Mayfield ended up the point person for defending their approach, asserting that Council had very little power and that it was too late to stop I-26. This is a more ambivalent public position than she’s taken in past years (where she’s asserted that I-26 is necessary but can be done in a more efficient and locally-friendly manner), and it’s important to note that shift comes as public anger against the project idea as a whole and gentrification in general has increased.
• Critics targeted the city, saying that they had options for opposing I-26 that they hadn’t pursued. Notably, they (correctly) pointed out that the project’s prospects dwindled in 2012 but then were revived by an effort that included an active endorsement of the interstate project from local government officials (including Mayfield and many others). So it’s likely some of the fight over this will move to City Hall in the coming months and years, especially if there’s a city election next year.
• While there’s a history of some interstates being built over local objections, they’re also far from inevitable and Asheville’s not as powerless as some on Council are pretending. A local government that dug in its heels rather than actively assenting could potentially delay the project considerably, possibly to the point that it was scrapped (say if a state or federal budget crunch happened). Even the DoT spokesperson admitted that nothing’s final until they pour the concrete.
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