|Length:||349 mi (562 km)|
|West end:||US-11W / US-23 / SR-1 / SR-137 in Kingsport, TN|
| I-81 in Kingsport, TN
I-40 / I-240 in Asheville, NC
I-85 near Spartanburg, SC
I-385 near Laurens, SC
I-20 near Columbia, SC
I-77 near Columbia, SC
I-95 near Orangeburg, SC
|East end:||US 17 in Charleston, SC|
Interstate 26 (I-26) is a nominally east-west (but physically more northwest-southeast diagonal) main route of the Interstate Highway System in the Southeastern United States. I-26 runs from the junction of U.S. Route 11W and U.S. Route 23 in Kingsport, Tennessee, generally southeastward to U.S. Route 17 in Charleston, South Carolina. The portion from Mars Hill, North Carolina, east (compass south) to Interstate 240 in Asheville, North Carolina, has signs indicating FUTURE I-26 because the highway does not yet meet all of the Interstate Highway standards. A short realignment as an improvement in the expressway was also planned in Asheville, but has been postponed indefinitely due to North Carolina's budget shortfalls.
Northwards from Kingsport, US-23 continues north to Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Corridor B of the Appalachian Development Highway System, and beyond to Columbus, as the Corridor C. In conjunction with the Columbus-Toledo, Ohio corridor formed by Interstate 75, U.S. 23, and State Route 15, I-26 forms part of a mostly high-speed four-or-more-lane highway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast at Charleston, South Carolina. There are no plans for further official Interstate 26 extensions into Virginia, Kentucky, or beyond.
I-26 is a diagonal Interstate Highway, which runs northwest/southeast. (Most of the other highway routes in this area are odd-numbered and run northeast/southwest.) The extension past Asheville is mostly north-south. Where I-26 crosses the French Broad River in Asheville at the Smoky Park Bridge, the highway runs in opposite directions from its designations. (I-26 West actually goes east. I-26 is concurrent with I-240, so that I-240 East and I-26 West are the same route.) When the extension was made in 2003, the exit numbers in North Carolina were increased by 31 to reflect the new mileage. The part that it shares with I-240 has not had its numbers changed, although most of the road signs now indicate I-26 instead of I-240.
I-26 has signs with an extra FUTURE sign above (and in the same style as) the EAST and WEST signs from Asheville north to Mars Hill, North Carolina, because the older U.S. Route 23 freeway does not yet meet all of the Interstate Highway standards. The road shoulders remain substandard or nonexistent along short sections of the route, and also, a rebuilding is planned in Asheville to avoid some tight interchanges.
The exit numbers in Tennessee were formerly numbered "backwards"—increasing from "east" (physically south) to "west" (physically north)—because this highway was formerly signed north—south as U.S. Route 23 (and Interstate 181). Although this is consistent with the south-to-north numbering conventions, this exit numbering was changed on all 284 signs along I-26 to be consistent with the rest of the east-to-west-numbered highway in March 2007. The remaining I-181 signs north of I-81 were also replaced with I-26 signs at that time.In Tennessee, I-26 continues in a northeast direction past Erwin, TN. As it approaches Johnson City, TN in the Tri-Cities area, it leaves the Cherokee National Forest and swings around to the northwest towards its major interchange with Interstate 81 at Colonial Heights, TN. The terminus of I-26 is at its junction with U.S. Route 11W west of Kingsport, TN, as US-23 continues over the remaining 1 mile (1.6 km) to the Virginia state line.
About 20 miles (32 km) beyond Spartanburg one reaches the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. After crossing the border into Polk County, North Carolina, I-26 intersects with U.S. Route 74, a limited-access freeway near Columbus, N.C., and it heads up a 6% grade for the next three miles through Howard Gap. Then it passes over the highest bridge in North Carolina, the Peter Guice Memorial Bridge, 225 feet (69 m) above Green River between Saluda and Flat Rock in Henderson County, North Carolina, and it crosses the Eastern Continental Divide at an elevation of 2,130 feet (650 m), having climbed from an elevation of around 1,100 feet (340 m) at the U.S. 74 interchange. The land flattens substantially after entering the French Broad River drainage basin from Flat Rock, N.C. to Hendersonville, N.C., Fletcher, N.C., and Arden, N.C..
I-26 has a major interchange with Interstate 40 in Asheville, N.C.. After 3 miles (4.8 km), U.S. Route 23 joins I-26 west of Asheville and follows it into Tennessee. The two interstates cross the French Broad River then, having shared the highway for 4.5 miles (7.2 km), immediately part company. As I-240 continues to swing round to the north and east of Asheville, I-26 turns north towards Weaverville and Mars Hill, N.C. It enters first the Blue Ridge and then the Walnut Mountains and Bald Mountains of the Appalachian range, passing through the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests as it does so.
As I-26 crosses the Bald Mountains near the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, it travels through a relatively high-elevation rural area. At Buckner Gap, I-26 reaches 3370 ft. in elevation. It reaches its highest elevation of 3,760 feet (1,150 m) at Sam's Gap. For 2 miles (3.2 km) each side of the state line, its elevation is at least 3,000 feet (910 m).
Beginning in the city of Charleston, I-26 travels northwestwardly over flat plains with little urbanization past Summerville. After the junction with I-95 just inside of Orangeburg County, the terrain becomes somewhat hilly. Orangeburg is the first major stop outside Charleston with several exits bearing this name. Between Orangeburg and the junction with Interstate 77 just outside of Cayce the highway goes up and down a few very long hills averaging about 100 feet (30 m) or 30 meters high. Beyond Interstate 77 is the Columbia metropolitan area with lodging, dining, and shopping possibilities. This metropolitan area ends mostly after exit 101, past which the terrain becomes somewhat hilly once again. The next major city is Newberry. Later, I-26 splits off north toward Spartanburg, where I-26 has a junction with the Interstate 85 corridor, which has a significant amount of international business and manufacturing. The 11-mile (18 km) section of I-26 from Interstate 126 in Columbia to US 176 at Exit 97 was the first section of the highway to open up to traffic (on September 7, 1960).
Prior to August 5, 2003, the highway's northwestern terminus was at Interstate 40 on the southwestern side of Asheville, where the highway continued on to make a loop around downtown as Interstate 240. In 2003, it was decided to extend the expressway northwest of Asheville into Tennessee. Next, the final section of the freeway in North Carolina, from Mars Hill north to the Tennessee state line, replaced the old two-lane highway U.S. Route-23. I-26 was extended into Tennessee via the US 23 freeway, taking over approximately one-half of the former Interstate 181 from U.S. Route 321 in Johnson City, to the Interstate 81 interchange southeast of Kingsport, Tennessee. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) initially ruled against an extension of Interstate 26 (as the number) along the remainder of I-181 to Kingsport, since that would give a main route Interstate Highway (I-26) a so-called "stub end", not connecting to any other Interstate highway, to an international border, or to a seacoast. The numerical extension was in 2005 enacted by the effect of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, signed into law on August 10, 2005. Thus, the I-26 designation extends to Kingsport, and it ends about to two miles (three kilometers) south of the Virginia state line, while the freeway itself continues to the state line as US 23.
||This section contains a table that is missing mileposts for one or more junctions. Please help by .|
|County||Location||Mile||km||Old exit||New exit||Destinations||Notes|
||Kingsport||0.00||0.00||US 23 north – Gate City||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|0||SR-36 south (Lynn Garden Drive)||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|1||US-11W (West Stone Drive, SR-1)||West end of I-26; south end of SR-137|
|Bridge over the Holston River|
|4||SR-93 (Wilcox Drive, SR-126)||Signed as exits 4A (south) and 4B (north) eastbound|
|6||SR-347 (Rock Springs Road)|
|8||I-81 – Knoxville, Bristol||Signed as exits 8A (south) and 8B (north)|
|10||Eastern Star Road|
||Johnson City||13||SR-75 (Suncrest Drive, Bobby Hicks Highway) – Gray|
|17||SR-354 (Boones Creek Road) – Jonesborough|
|19||SR-381 (State of Franklin Road) – Bristol|
|20||US-11E / US-19W north (Roan Street, SR-34/SR-36 north)||West end of US-19W/SR-36 overlap; signed as exits 20A (south) and 20B (north) westbound|
|22||SR-400 (Unaka Avenue, Watauga Avenue)|
|23||SR-91 (Market Street, Main Street)|
|24||US-321 / SR-67 – Elizabethton|
||27||SR-359 north (Okolona Road)|
||Unicoi||32||SR-173 (Unicoi Road)|
|Erwin||36||Main Street – Erwin|
|37||SR-81 / SR-107 – Erwin, Jonesborough|
|40||Jackson-Love Highway – Erwin|
|43||US-19W south (Temple Hill Road, SR-36 south) to SR-352||East end of US-19W/SR-36 overlap|
|46||Clear Branch Road|
|50||Flag Pond Road|
||Tennessee–North Carolina state line|
||—||3||US 23A south – Wolf Laurel|
|9||US 19 north / US 23A north – Burnsville, Spruce Pine||West end of US 19 overlap|
|Mars Hill||11||NC 213 – Mars Hill, Marshall|
||13||Forks of Ivy|
|15||NC 197 – Jupiter, Barnardsville|
US 19 Bus. south / Monticello Road – Weaverville
|19||US 25 north / US 70 west – Marshall, Weaverville||West end of US 25/US 70 overlap; signed as exits 25A (north/west) and 25B (Weaverville) westbound|
|21||New Stock Road – Weaverville|
US 25 / US 19 Bus. (Merrimon Avenue) – North Asheville, New Bridge
|East end of US 25 overlap; US 19 Business hidden at intersection|
|24||Elk Mountain Road Woodfin|
|Asheville||25||NC 251 – University of North Carolina-Asheville|
|Hill Street||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|I-240 east / US 70 east (US 74 Alt. east)||East end of US 70 overlap; west end of I-240/US 74 Alt. overlap|
|4B||Patton Avenue – Downtown Asheville|
|3B||Westgate, Holiday Inn Drive|
|3A||US 19 south / US 23 south (US 74 Alt. west)||East end of US 19/US 23/US 74 Alt. overlap; west end of US 19 Bus./US 23 Bus. overlap|
US 19 Bus. south / US 23 Bus. south – West Asheville
|US 19 Business and US 23 Business join westbound and leave eastbound|
|1C||Amboy Road||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|1B||NC 191 (Brevard Road) to I-40 east|
|1B||31B||I-40 west / US 74 – Canton, Knoxville||East end of I-240 overlap at I-40; west end of US 74 overlap; signed as exit 1A eastbound|
|1A||31A||I-40 east – Hickory||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|2||33||NC 191 / Blue Ridge Parkway|
|6||37||NC 146 – Skyland|
|9||40||NC 280 – Asheville Regional Airport, Arden|
US 25 north / US 25 Bus. south – Fletcher, Mountain Home
|West end of US 25 overlap|
|Hendersonville||18||49||US 64 – Hendersonville, Bat Cave||Signed as exits 49A (east) and 49B (west)|
|22||53||Upward Road – Hendersonville|
|23||54||US 25 south to US 176 / NC 225 - Greenville||East end of US 25 overlap|
|Green River||Peter Guice Memorial Bridge|
|Columbus||36||67||US 74 east / NC 108 – Columbus, Rutherfordton, Tryon||East end of US 74 overlap|
||349.00||561.66||North Carolina–South Carolina state line|
|For continuation, see Interstate 26 in South Carolina: Exit list|
- Interstate 126 is a spur into Columbia, South Carolina from the northwest.
- Interstate 526 is a partial beltway of Charleston, South Carolina, running from U.S. Route 17 west of the city north to I-26 and back east and south to US-17 east of Charleston.
- "Interstate 26 @ Interstate-Guide.com". Interstate Guide. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- Google Inc. Google Maps – overview map of I-26 (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=6310337734879748054,36.588650,-82.574130%3B14384335689451893313,32.799754,-79.945133&saddr=Exit+57+%4036.588650,+-82.574130&daddr=32.799721,-79.945064&mra=dme&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=16&sll=32.799703,-79.942682&sspn=0.008153,0.014462&ie=UTF8&ll=34.759666,-80.057373&spn=4.079227,7.382813&z=7. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- "I-26 connector on hold indefinitely". Retrieved 2011-03-29.
- "The New I-26 Virtual Tour". Millenniumhwy.net. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- "Sams Gap - NC/TN Border". Waymarking.com. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- "Maptech website - Sams Gap". Mapserver.mytopo.com. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Interstate 26|
- Geographic data related to Interstate 26 at OpenStreetMap
- FHWA Route Log and Finder List
- Political History of I-26
- News article listing new I-26 exit numbers published March 2, 2007[dead link]
- Amberg, Rob. "I-26, Corridor of Change." Southern Spaces, June 5, 2007, http://southernspaces.org/2007/i-26-corridor-change.
|Browse numbered routes|
|← US 25||NC||NC 27 →|