Interstate 26 in North Carolina
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length:||49.0 mi (78.9 km)|
|Existed:||1966 – present|
|West end:||I-26 / US 23 at the TN line near Faust|
|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.
I-26, in concurrency with US 23, enters the state at Sams Gap (elevation 3,760 feet (1,150 m)), from Tennessee. In the first 9 miles (14 km), designated as a scenic byway, it features mostly six travel lanes and three runaway truck ramps along its eastbound. The freeway is also parallels US 23A, which was the original route before 2006. At exit 9, I-26 ends and Future I-26 begins; US 19 also joins from Burnsville.
At Weaverville, Future I-26 merges with US 25/US 70, coming from Marshall; however, US 25 soon disembarks in Woodfin and continues south along Merrimon Avenue. Future I-26 enters Asheville, while parallel with the French Broad River, and merges with westbound I-240/US 74A, with US 19/US 23; US 70 ends its concurrency by going eastbound I-240/US 74A instead and an additional exit at the major interchange provides access to downtown Asheville via Patton Avenue.
Crossing the French Broad River along Capt. Jeff Bowen Bridge (originally Smokey Park Highway Bridge before 2012), Future I-26/I-240 promptly exits with two-lanes to the right (same for both directions) while US 19/US 23/US 74A continue along Patton Avenue (exit 3). The interchange also features warning lights for stop traffic ahead, common during rush hour traffic. Between Patton Avenue (exit 3) and Haywood Road (exit 2), Future I-26/I-240 shares hidden concurrency with US 19 Bus./US 23 Bus.
At the major interchange with I-40, both Future I-26 and I-240 end and I-26 begins again, with new concurrency with US 74. The interchange features left exit and entrances; while travelers along eastbound Future I-26/westbound I-240, access to eastbound I-40 is via NC 191 (Brevard Road - exit 1). Westbound I-40/US 74 continues on to Canton and Knoxville, eastbound I-40 provides access to nearby Biltmore Estate and further on to Hickory.
In Fletcher, I-26 goes by the Asheville Regional Airport (exit 40); 3.2 miles (5.1 km) later, US 25 rejoins (exit 44). In Hendersonville, it connects with US 64, which connect travelers to nearby Chimney Rock, Lake Lure and Brevard. Between mile markers 53 and 54, I-26 crosses the Eastern Continental Divide (elevation 2,130 feet (650 m)), at the Crest Road overpass (SR 1803). Near East Flat Rock, US 25 separates again towards Greenville; while I-26 goes southeasterly down along Dodging Hill and crosses over the Green River along Peter Guice Memorial Bridge, with a clearance of 235-foot (72 m) from the river, making it the highest bridge in North Carolina.
At Howard Gap (elevation around 1,900 feet (580 m)), an additional truck lane is available on westbound I-26 for 3 miles (4.8 km). In Columbus, US 74 ends concurrency at exit 67, continuing east towards Shelby. At 71.4 miles (114.9 km) (combining I-26 and Future I-26), I-26 crosses the state line and into South Carolina.
I-26 also make up part of Corridor B in the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). Corridor B connects I-40, in Asheville, North Carolina, with US 23, near Lucasville, Ohio, it overlaps 9 miles (14 km) of I-26 and 22 miles (35 km) of Future I-26. ADHS provides additional funds, as authorized by the U.S. Congress, which have enabled I-26 to benefit from the successive improvements and widening along its routing within the corridor. The white-on-blue banner "Appalachian Highway" is used to mark the ADHS corridor.
I-26 overlaps with one state scenic byway simply known as the "I-26 Scenic Byway." Located from the Tennessee state line to Exit 9 (US 19/US 23A), near Mars Hill. The byway is known for its unspoiled views of the North Carolina Mountains.
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 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/Future I-26 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||mi||km||Old exit||New exit||Destinations||Notes|
|Madison||State line||0.0||0.0||I-26 west / US 23 north – Johnson City||Continuation into Tennessee; 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||Existing interchanges of US 19/US 23 (upgrade to interstate standards, funded)|
|Buncombe||13||Forks of Ivy|
|Flat Creek||15||NC 197 – Jupiter, Barnardsville|
US 19 Bus. south / Monticello Road – Weaverville
|19||US 25 north / US 70 west – Marshall, Weaverville|
|21||New Stock Road – Weaverville|
US 25 south / US 19 Bus. north (Merrimon Avenue) – Woodfin, North Asheville
|24||Elk Mountain Road Woodfin|
|Asheville||25||NC 251 – University of North Carolina at Asheville|
|I‑240 east / US 70 east / US 74A east / Patton Avenue||Existing interchanges of I-240 (realign and upgrade to interstate standards, partially funded)|
|3B||Westgate / Resort Drive|
|3A||US 19 south / US 23 south / US 74A west (Patton Avenue)|
US 19 Bus. south / US 23 Bus. south (Haywood Street) – West Asheville
|1B||NC 191 (Brevard Road) to I‑26 east / I‑40|
|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||To Biltmore Baptist Church|
|Arden||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|
|Polk||Saluda||59.6||95.9||28||59||Holbert Cove Road|
|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||Continuation into South Carolina|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- "I-26 Fact Sheet" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. June 21, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- "Uglybridges.com: Blue Ridge Parkway over I-26". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "Bridgehunter.com: Peter Guice Memorial Bridge". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- Google (November 29, 2013). "Overview Map of I-26 in North Carolina" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "Guide to Geologic Points of Interest Along Interstate 26". North Carolina Geologic Survey. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "Status of Corridors in North Carolina" (PDF). Appalachian Regional Commission. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- "NCDOT: Scenic Byways". Retrieved June 28, 2011.
- "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. July 15, 2004. 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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