Our good friends at the Western North Carolina Alliance<http://www.wnca.org/> have provided this information about the long range transportation plan for the Asheville region. We hope you’ll take the time to get involved and advocate for sustainable transportation choices in the region.

Issue:  Every five years, the Asheville region updates its long range plan for transportation projects.  This plan includes major bike and pedestrian projects, greenways, and transit projects as well as road and highway projects.  A new draft Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update, which covers transportation projects in Buncombe, Henderson, and Haywood Counties, is now available for public review and comment.

Background:  The LRTP is key to how our region will grow and travel over the next 25 years, as it directs how we will invest the ever-shrinking pot of federal transportation dollars.  Should we invest in transit, sidewalks, greenways, and bike paths?  Should we plan for a future when gasoline will be expensive?  Should we respond to the increasing demands of citizens who want ways to travel other than in their cars? Should we promote transportation projects that promote denser development rather than sprawl?

If your answer to any of these questions is Yes, then please take time to comment on the plan. Local government officials need to hear how you think we should invest our transportation funds.  See the links below for ways to access and review the plan.

The LRTP is created by elected officials from Buncombe, Henderson, and Haywood Counties as well as the cities within those counties.  Collectively, these local governments make up the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO or FBRMPO).  The MPO, in turn, is housed at the Land of Sky Regional Council.

Take Action:  The public comment period runs until September 22.  Comments can be:

  • made in person at upcoming meetings of the MPO on August 26 or September 23 at 12:30 at the FBRMPO, 339 New Leicester Hwy Suite 140, Asheville, NC 28806;
    • emailed to mpo@landofsky.org;
    • mailed or delivered to the FBRMPO at the address above;
    • phoned in to (828) 251-6622; or
  • faxed to (828) 251-6353.

A series of public workshops about the Plan will be held throughout August and September.  This is another good way to learn about the plan and tell the MPO what you want to see.   A schedule for the workshops can be found here<http://p2.hostingprod.com/@fbrmpo.org/LRTP/FBRMPO.2010.LRTP.Public.Workshop.Schedule.pdf>.

Talking Points:  You should tailor your message to your own desires for transportation in this region, but below are some points you might make.

  • We want a truly regional, well-connected transportation system that enhances the environment and livability of the region.  This plan contains some elements that move us in that direction, but it could be stronger.
  • Generally, we support the proposed bike, pedestrian, greenway, and transit projects included in the plan and encourage the MPO to implement them as soon as possible.
  • Regarding road projects, we support projects designed to address safety concerns or that also promote multimodal travel.
  • We do not support those projects that widen roads solely to relieve congestion.  Because road widening in those instances is usually only a temporary fix and often promotes sprawling development, we encourage the MPO to instead provide transportation choices that will relieve congestion over the long term and that promote denser development in appropriate locations.
  • More specifically, we support the following individual projects:
    • The proposed bike and pedestrian projects, including several greenways that will serve as transportation corridors.
    • The comprehensive multimodal corridor study for I-26 between Asheville and Hendersonville.
    • The express buses between Asheville and Hendersonville and Asheville and Waynesville.
    • Implementation of the US 70 Corridor Plan, although we ask that this project be implemented earlier than currently scheduled.
    • Implementation of the Wilma Dykeman plan as aggressively as possible.
    • Improvements to freight and passenger rail as soon as possible.
    • Construction of a transit center in Hendersonville.
    • Construction of a Regional Transit Center as early as possible to facilitate development of a truly regional transit system.
  • Regarding the two most expensive items in the plan – the I-26 Connector Project in Asheville ($136,000,000) and associated widening of other portions of I-26 north and south of Asheville ($397,300,000) – we ask the MPO to consider whether a 6-10 lane highway is the best investment of shrinking federal transportation dollars.  In many places in Asheville, I-26 is proposed to be 10 lanes wide, which might be appropriate for a city the size of Charlotte or Atlanta but not Asheville.
  • By way of contrast, all of the bike/pedestrian/greenway projects in the LRTP are estimated to cost $74,947,000.  If the proposed improvements to I-26 were scaled back, the region could easily pay for all of these projects, accelerate their implementation, and have money left over for other projects that could promote the livability of the region rather than make it easier for people to simply pass through it.
  • Finally, we ask the MPO to improve the method by which it predicts how we will live and travel in the future to better account for increasing gas prices, increased use of bike/pedestrian paths and transit, and a closer connection between how we build (land use) and how we travel (transportation).  We want a future of increasing transportation choices that allows for seamless movement from home to work to places to play.

Finding the Plan:  The draft LRTP can be accessed electronically by visiting the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s website (www.fbrmpo.org) or by using this direct link: ftp://www.landofskygis.org/MPO/LRTP/LRTP%20Update-2010%20FINAL.pdf.  The document is large and may take several moments to download. The Table of Contents on page 6 includes links so that you can navigate directly to different Chapters.

Hard copies of the LRTP are also available at libraries throughout the region. Click here<http://p2.hostingprod.com/@fbrmpo.org/LRTP/Library.locations.pdf> for a list of library locations where you can view a hard copy.