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

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I-40 // Photo by @mishka.usa

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 I26 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

N.C. DOT

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

 

N.C. DOT

The goal: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.