MNA Survey Results, Oct 15, 2016

1. BROAD GEOGRAPHIC CROSS-SECTION REPRESENTED.

  • 160 responses over 2 weeks from 9/30 through 10/12.
  • Geographical results were broad with 57 different streets represented. 
  • 33 represented streets are in Montford.
  • Remaining 24 streets represented the West Asheville, Linden-Murdock, North Asheville, Five Points, South Slope, River Arts, Emma Street, and Charlotte Street communities, as well as Woodfin and Fairview.

2. MINISCULE SUPPORT FOR I-26 PLANS.

  • 3.75% (six people out of 160) support Alternative 4B.
  • Only 15.63% think the City’s goal of making 4B smaller can make that alternative okay.
  • 48.75% think 4B is unacceptable.
  • 20.63% think it would be difficult to make 4B acceptable even if the three elevated highways were smaller.

3. OVERALL, SURVEY RESPONDENTS CONSIDERED THEMSELVES KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT THE PROJECT.

  • 77.22% of respondents are educated on the issue with 49.37% having followed the issue and aware of the alternatives, with an additional 27.85% knowing some impacts associated with 4B.
  • 12.66% only knew 4B was the selected alternative.
  • 10.13% were not familiar with the project.

4. THE LOCATION FOR THE I-26 CONNECTOR WASN’T SELECTED WHEN MOST SURVEY RESPONDENTS LIVED IN ASHEVILLE.

  • When the location was selected in 1995, 27.50% (or less) of survey respondents were living in Asheville.
  • 72.5% of survey respondents have no familiarity with the work of the Asheville Community Coordinating Committee that selected the I-26 location, as 37.5% of survey respondents moved to Asheville between 2000 and 2010, while another 35% moved here after 2010.

5. NCDOT HASN’T DONE A GOOD JOB OF EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE PROJECT.

  • 61.88% did not attend any NCDOT forum about the project in 2015, and another 5% weren’t sure.
  • Only 35% of survey respondents attended the September 20 MNA forum with NCDOT officials.
  • Of that 35% who attended the MNA forum, however, 94.64% said they learned something about the project that they did not know before then.

6. CONCERNS ABOUT THE I-26 CONNECTOR PROJECT AND/OR ALTERNATIVE 4B ARE BROAD.

  • 86.88% are worried about increased noise.
  • 84.38% are concerned about the visual impact on Asheville stemming from three elevated highways.
  • 79.38% are concerned about the visuals associated with tall retaining and sound walls.
  • 78.13% are concerned about increased air pollution – an issue that won’t be analyzed by NCDOT because Asheville is not currently polluted.
  • 76.88% are concerned about all the foliage/trees that will be clear-cut for construction.
  • 74.38% are concerned about property values.
  • 70% are concerned about structural integrity of homes and historic resources in Montford.
  • Other representative stated concerns include:
    • “This highway was not supported in any way by Asheville citizens. I attended the meeting in 2015 and it was clear as such. I am surprised none of the comments expressed at the meeting were even taken into consideration. It is clear to me that NCDOT does not have the best interest in protecting and accommodating Asheville citizens. Very disappointing.”
    • “A highway too large for a city of our size and needs. Cutting off/isolating West Asheville from Asheville. Increased crime in areas blighted by this project. A decade or more of construction that makes entering/exiting Asheville from/to the west very difficult and the likely need to use a less desirable southern I-40 entry/exit approach instead. For reference, a similar but much smaller in comparison is the current I-26 bridge construction - the duration of that construction and the traffic congestion that it causes.”
    • “The sheer scale of the project seems very much out of synch with Asheville. This looks like Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta!”
    • “4B is based on a mistaken vision of the Jeff Bowen bridge as potentially part of an urban boulevard connecting west Asheville with downtown. This idea ignores the fact that Patton is a US highway and likely to remain car centered.”
    • “Having lived in major metropolitan areas (Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta) this size project for this city is absurd. There is no need nor will there be in 20+ years for this level of construction to move traffic that does not exist. Also to take this through a historical area is unacceptable so rethink not only scale but area. Asheville does not need a spaghetti junction now found in major metropolitan city with 8+million residents. We will never be that nor will we ever need this size of road system.”
    • “Montford has a strong historic identity. it is a tourist draw, as is downtown Asheville. tourists do NOT want to see big highways when they stay in downtown hotels, when sitting at downtown restaurants, or touring Montford, or Biltmore house, THEY WANT TO SEE AND TOUCH THE PAST.  If they wanted a big cosmopolitan town, they would go to Atlanta or Charlotte, not here. THEY COME HERE FOR THE NATURAL BEAUTY. THEY BUY PROPERTY HERE BECAUSE OF THE NATURAL BEAUTY.”
    • “Over the past 20 years, I have waited no more than 5 minutes in any "traffic jam" in Asheville proper. The construction will impact our beautiful green space. The noise and air pollution will have lasting effects on the region, people and wildlife. All City and surrounding residents should be concerned with these factors and if strategic and reasonable thinking and decisions went into this plan.”
    • “DOT could not explain/quantify the "benefits" of this project which originated back in 1989. They spent most of the time explaining how they've followed "the process."

7. MOST SURVEY RESPONDENTS DON’T EXPERIENCE THE CONGESTION THAT SUGGESTS THE NEED FOR REMOVING ALL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC OFF THE BOWEN BRIDGE.

  • Only 21.6% of survey respondents experience daily traffic congestion in the area.
  • 53.49% of respondents claim traffic congestion on and approaching the Bowen Bridge occurs in their travels, once or twice a month, rarely, or never.
  • Another 24.84% experience congestion in the area once or twice a week.

8. REGARDLESS OF THE CITY’S HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS, FEW PEOPLE WILL WALK OR BIKE ALONG THE BOWEN BRIDGE.

  • Only 1.89% would use it for these purposes daily, while another 13.21% would walk or bike it weekly.
  • 78.61% would rarely (33.96%) or never (44.65%) bike or walk it, suggesting any use of City or State tax dollars to fund such access would be wasted.
    • “Ummmm walking across a bridge is nice when you can see a river -- not when you're looking at a spaghetti mess of bridges.”

9. TWO-THIRDS OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS WANT ASHEVILLE COMMUNITIES TO UNITE TO FIGHT THE I-26 PLANS.

  • Only 6.88% of survey respondents believe the MNA should support 4B.
  • Another 16.25% want the MNA to oppose 4B.
  • A full 63.75% believe the MNA should work with other Asheville communities to “reevaluate alternatives that were discarded in 1995 that located the entire I-26 project – Sections A, B, and C – west of the City limits.” 
  • Twenty-eight survey respondents volunteered to help with the fight and provided their contact information.
  • 2.5% believe it would be best for the MNA to take no position on the I-26 Connector Project.
    • “The project needs to go back to the drawing board and explore true solutions to running an interstate through the middle of a city (potentially just to connect a sea port to an inland port).”
    • “Work with the city and NCDOT to look at alternatives both existing and new, to preserve the visual beauty of the area and to keep neighborhoods connected and have the least impact on trees and existing natural areas.”
    • “I don't think more people with a low education actually understand the magnitude of the construction. This is something that happened in the River Arts District where unnecessary money is being used to fix up roads that no one walks on. And just because a company from another state wants to build a road that no one wants, City Council should agree with the citizens of the neighborhood, who live and work in the area.”
    • “The effect on the character of Asheville will be similar to what might have been created if the proposed downtown mall had been developed in the late 70s. Devastating.”
    • “This highway project will absolutely ruin our city and its absurd that we are spending so much time and money planning it. This is the worst idea Asheville has faced since we decided against building the huge mall downtown. Can you imagine how terrible downtown would be now if that project had gone through? This highway will ruin our town.”
    • “I absolutely believe that routing I-26 through the city of Asheville is of no benefit to the people of the city. The existing highway is more than sufficient if the thru-traffic were routed around the city, as is done in many other cities throughout the country.”
    • I have lived here since 1992 and EVERYTHING has changed. in 1995, DOWNTOWN WAS DEAD. Now downtown is a main tourist draw and source of income for the city. DOT needs to realize that.

10. PEOPLE UNDERSTAND A CITY-WIDE FIGHT APPROACH WILL BE AN UPHILL BATTLE. 

  • “If you do not take the lead, the City will do nothing to help or change. They take the path of least resistance, and do the least amount of work. The neighborhoods have to do this themselves.
  • I recently attended a meeting where vice mayor Gwen Wisler was present and had an opportunity to talk with her. She was very forthcoming and indicated, despite NCDOT's comment about the 4B alternative not being set in stone, the likelihood of moving the highway to the west side of the river is pretty much nil. I don't think MNA should throw in the towel but know that it will be a very, very uphill battle that may result in no significant changes.”

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