Asked + Answered: What is “Future I-26?”


I-40 // Photo by @mishka.usa

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In February, we asked you what you wanted to know about Asheville, and we received over 100 questions, which we answer right here in AVLtoday (check out the check marks + links next to the ones we’ve already tackled).

Today, we’re diving into a question that most Ashevillians likely have whenever they head west from downtown on I-40 and see the yellow traffic signs that say “Future I-26". So, what does the “Future I-26" mean?

The signs have said “Future” since 2003 because the section of I-26 that runs through Buncombe County does not meet interstate standards as defined by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. A project to meet the interstate standards is to begin in 2021.

This is part of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Improvement Program, and will come with up to a 12 million price tag between the widening + connecting I-40 + what will become I-26.

Here’s the lowdown –

Widening I-240 | Set to begin in 2019 | Has been in progress since 2003

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Goal: To widen approximately 22.2 miles of I-26 from U.S. 25, near Hendersonville, to I-40/240, south of Asheville.

The project is divided into two sections –

  • Section I-4400 is a 13.6-mile stretch that begins at U.S. 25 (Exit 54) near Hendersonville, and extends along I-26 west to N.C. 280 (Exit 40).
  • Section I-4700 is an 8.6-mile stretch that extends along I-26 from N.C. 280 west to the I-40/240 interchange. This will involve replacing the Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge over I-26.

DYK: By 2040, I-26 is anticipated to operate over capacity?

The project will also improve pavement structure + existing road surface conditions, which was repaved partially (and underwent rehabilitation) in 2011.

I-26 connector | Set to begin 2020

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The goal: A 7-mile freeway that would connect I-26 in southwest Asheville to U.S. 19/23/70 in northwest Asheville.
The proposed project involves three sections:

  • Section A: West Asheville. I-240 (as well as interchanges at Brevard, Amboy and Haywood roads) from the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 to the I-240 interchange with Patton Avenue – west of the French Broad River.
  • Section B: Building the interstate on a new location from the Patton Avenue interchange north across the French Broad River, tying into U.S. 19/23/70 south of Broadway
  • Section C: Improvements to the I-40 interchanges with Smokey Park Highway, I-26/I-240 and Brevard Road

As of last month, all 3 of these sections have been funded.
Once complete, the I-26 Interstate that extends from Charleston, S.C., to Kingsport, Tenn.

The effects

Last month, the final funding for this project was made, which was a long time in the works. The project was first proposed in the 1980’s from N.C. DOT – and 30+ years later, we’re on the right path (or, road).

The Asheville Area of Chamber of Commerce put together a list of how our city will be positively affected by this final funding milestone:

  • “The anticipated start date will move from 2027 to 2020, beginning with the addition of two lanes to the four-lane road.
  • All sections of the project will be completed on the same schedule, removing the danger of a “severe bottleneck” in West Asheville.
  • The infrastructure will serve as an economic satisfier and help attract better industry and talent to our region.
  • An eventual decrease in commute time and traffic for the 40% of our workforce that works outside of Asheville and the many others who rely on these roads.
  • A decrease in accidents on a highway that presently has one of the highest accident rates in North Carolina.”

What questions do you still have about the I-26 connector project? Are you ready for the expansion? Comment below + let us know.

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