Interstate 26 in North Carolina
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length:||49.0 mi (78.9 km)|
|Existed:||1960s – present|
|West end:||I-26 / US-23 at the TN line near Faust|
| US 19 / US 23A near Mars Hill
I-40 / I-240 / US 74 in Asheville
US 25 / US 25 Bus. in Fletcher
US 64 in Hendersonville
US 25 near East Flat Rock
US 74 in Columbus
|East end:||I-26 at the SC line near Landrum, SC|
|Counties:||Madison, Buncombe, Henderson, Polk|
Interstate 26 (I-26) runs between its terminus in Charleston, South Carolina, and Kingsport, Tennessee. I-26 is mostly four lanes through North Carolina with few exceptions. It goes through the Appalachian Mountains and crosses the Eastern Continental Divide and Asheville. I-26's original eastern terminus was I-40/I-240 in Asheville. Between 2003 and 2005, the road was extended further north into Tennessee. Along the segment from Mars Hill to Asheville there are FUTURE I-26 signs as some parts of the road have not yet to be upgraded to Interstate Highway standards.
||This article or section is written in the wrong direction. U.S. road articles are generally written in a south-to-north and west-to-east direction in order to follow the order of their mileposts.|
The road continues west paralleling the Green River. I-26 soon starts to descend towards Howard's Gap near Saluda. It then crosses the Green River Gorge near East Flat Rock. US 25 merges onto I-26/US 74 in East Flat Rock and runs a concurrency with the road for 9.9 miles (15.9 km). I-26 is routed east of East Flat Rock and Hendersonville then crosses the Eastern Continental Divide near Fletcher, North Carolina. US 25 merges off to the right in Fletcher while US 74 still runs concurrently with I-26. The road goes by Asheville Regional Airport and has an exit for the airport.
I-26 crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway close to Asheville. There is no interchange with the Blue Ridge Parkway and I-26. I-26 crosses the French Broad River on a flat pillar bridge. In Asheville, I-26 heads straight at the Interchange with I-40 and I-240. I-26 runs concurrently with I-240 for four miles (6.4 km) around downtown Asheville. After an interchange with US 19/ US 23A, I-26/240 widens out to six lanes, three in each direction. It crosses the French Broad River again on the same type of bridge as last time. At exit 4 (I-240 exit numbers), I-26/US 23/US 19/US 70 heads north toward Weaverville. US 25 merges back onto the freeway and stays with I-26 until Weaverville. In Weaverville I-26 acts as a bypass going along the western side of the city. US 70 and US 25 depart at exit 19. I-26 crosses the Forks of Ivy near Mars Hill. At exit 9 just north of Mars Hill, US 19 separates to the right and heads northeast. I-26 and US 23 still run along the same road with US 23A further to the east. The road increases at a steep grade north of Mars Hill. Runaway truck ramps are on the eastbound lanes of I-26. After going through some more of the Black Mountains I-26/US 23 continues into Tennessee.
Dedicated and memorial names
I-26 in North Carolina has one dedicated or memorialized section of freeway.
- Liston B. Ramsey Freeway - official name of I-26, on the section that overlaps with US 23 in Madison.
I-26 is part of one scenic byway in the state (indicated by a Scenic Byways sign).
I-26 Scenic Byway is an 9-mile (14 km) byway from the Tennessee state line to exit 9 (US 19/US 23A), near Mars Hill. I-26, in concurrency with US 23, traverses the entire length, known for its unspoiled views of the North Carolina Mountains.
I-26 appeared in the original Interstate Highway plans running from Charleston to Asheville. The road was first mapped as an under construction highway from US 25 near Hendersonville north to NC 280 (current NC 146). The first segment opened in 1966 beginning at NC 280 to the US 25 connector near East Flat Rock. In 1969, I-26 was extended north to I-40 and the South Carolina segment was extended to NC 108 near Columbus. In 1973, I-26 was extended from the US 25 connector to Saluda. Three years later I-26 was connected. The segment from Saluda to NC 108 was completed. In 2003 it was decided to extended I-26 to the Tennessee state line where a freeway existed. I-26 was routed over I-240 and went along US 23 to the north where its current routing is today.
Building through Howards Gap
One of the hardest places to build I-26 was in Howards Gap. The work was delayed by numerous landslides along Miller Mountain and Tryon Peak. Special engineering had to be done to continue work on I-26 through the area. The most important part was controlling the soil and water on the mountains and surrounding areas. This was achieved by having several miles of underground pipes to drain the water along the road.
In 2013, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) reopened the idea of widening I-26 from Asheville to Flat Rock. The project had been planned 10 years ago but was stopped by legal challenges.
The I-26 connector has been planned to start in 2018. The project will upgrade I-240/I-26 from the I-40 interchange to Patton Avenue. The project will also improve the Brevard Road, Amboy Road, Haywood Road, and Patton Avenue interchanges, along with building a new freeway from the Patton Avenue interchange across the French Broad River and then to US 19/23/70 south of Broadway Street. The total project length is 5.1 miles (8.2 km).
Another project, north of Patton Avenue to US 19/23A, will upgrade existing standards to interstate standards; by replacing bridges, adding highway width and shoulders. The project, needed so I-26 can fully be labeled along that stretch, is currently in development. The estimated cost is $184 million, with right-of-way acquisition starting in 2018.
|County||Location||Mile||km||Old exit||New exit||Destinations||Notes|
|Madison||State line||0.0||0.0||I-26 west / US-23 north – Johnson City||Crosses through Sam's Gap|
|3.4||5.5||3||US 23A south – Wolf Laurel|
|9.0||14.5||9||US 19 north / US 23A north – Burnsville, Spruce Pine||North end of US 19 overlap
East end of I-26 and west end of Future I-26
|Mars Hill||11||NC 213 – Mars Hill, Marshall||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|Buncombe||13||Stockton Road – Forks of Ivy||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|15||NC 197 – Jupiter, Barnardsville||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|Flat Rock||17||Old Mars Hill Highway||Upgrade to interstate standards|
US 19 Bus. south / Monticello Road – Weaverville
|Upgrade to interstate standards|
|19||US 25 north / US 70 west – Marshall, Weaverville||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|21||New Stock Road – Weaverville||Upgrade to interstate standards|
US 25 / US 19 Bus. (Merrimon Avenue) – North Asheville, New Bridge
|Upgrade to interstate standards|
|24||Elk Mountain Road Woodfin||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|Asheville||25||NC 251 – University of North Carolina at Asheville||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|Hill Street||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|I-240 east / US 70 east / US 74A east / Patton Avenue||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|3B||Westgate / Resort Drive||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|3A||US 19 south / US 23 south / US 74A west (Patton Avenue)||Upgrade to interstate standards|
US 19 Bus. south / US 23 Bus. south (Haywood Street) – West Asheville
|Upgrade to interstate standards|
|1C||Amboy Road||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|1B||NC 191 (Brevard Road) to I-40 east||Upgrade to interstate standards|
|31.4||50.5||1B||31B||I-40 west / US 74 west – Canton, Knoxville||West end of I-240/US 74 overlap
West end of I-26 and east end of Future I-26
|31.9||51.3||1A||31A||I-40 east – Hickory, Biltmore Estate||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|33.0||53.1||2||33||NC 191 / Blue Ridge Parkway||To Biltmore Square Mall|
|37.7||60.7||6||37||NC 146 – Skyland|
|Asheville||40.8||65.7||9||40||NC 280 – Asheville Regional Airport, Arden, Brevard||To WNC Agriculture Center|
US 25 north / US 25 Bus. south – Fletcher, Mountain Home
|North end of US 25 overlap|
|Hendersonville||49.9||80.3||18||49||US 64 – Hendersonville, Bat Cave||Signed as exits 49A (east) and 49B (west)|
|53.4||85.9||22||53||Upward Road – Hendersonville|
|54.4||87.5||23||54||US 25 south to US 176 / NC 225 – Greenville||South end of US 25 overlap|
|Green River||56.5||90.9||Peter Guice Memorial Bridge over Green River|
|Columbus||66.5||107.0||36||67||US 74 east / NC 108 – Columbus, Rutherfordton, Tryon||East end of US 74 overlap|
|State line||71.4||114.9||I-26 east – Spartanburg|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- Google Inc. "Overview Map of I-26 in North Carolina". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=I-26+W&daddr=Unknown+road&hl=en&sll=35.952633,-82.557213&sspn=0.017474,0.014892&geocode=FT0DGQIdJzka-w%3BFWCfJAIdODsU-w&mra=ls&t=h&z=10. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- http://www.aaroads.com/guide.php?page=i0025nc[unreliable source]
- "Guide to Geologic Points of Interest Along Interstate 26". North Carolina Geologic Survey. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. July 15, 2004. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
- "North Carolina Scenic Byways" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
- "I-26 Connector, Asheville, NC". Project Details. North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- "US 19/23 (Future I-26) Improvements Project". Project Details. North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Media related to Interstate 26 in North Carolina at Wikimedia Commons
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