HAYWOOD COUNTY – A contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation will begin a significant phase in the two-year rehabilitation of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee state line this weekend.
Crews and subcontractors for Harrison Construction will begin constructing a new median wall on the westernmost five miles of the interstate in the coming days. The construction process will require the inside lanes of both directions to be closed until this phase is complete in the spring.
Traffic on I-40 between the state line and mile marker 5 will be in a one-lane pattern through May so crews can safely build the new wall and traffic can safely pass in the work zone.
“We’re replacing the wall now while we’re doing the rehabilitation because it has never been improved since the interstate opened,” Division 14 construction engineer Ted Adams said. “You can step over the wall right now. It’s that low. The new wall and other improvements will bring the wall up to modern standards and make the interstate safer.”
This phase is part of a two-year project to rehabilitate the interstate from the Fines Creek exit at mile marker 15 to the state line.
Crews have completed half of the $33.8 million project by milling out the old surface, laying down a new surface, replacing drainage systems and installing a guardrail from Fines Creek to Cold Springs Creek Road.
On Sunday, the outside eastbound lane will be closed from mile marker 451 in Tennessee to mile marker 4 in North Carolina. Traffic will be moved into the left lane to allow crews to remove existing pavement markings and place new markings that will allow traffic to use the existing shoulder as the right lane. On Monday, a similar operation will take place in the westbound direction from mile marker 5 in North Carolina to the state line.
These one-day operations will establish the lanes that will be used through the spring. Next week, crews will begin installing temporary barrier wall in both directions starting at the state line and working east. Then crews will begin removing the existing wall and building the new safety barrier wall.
This phase should be completed in May. Then crews will begin resurfacing, replacing old guardrail and improve drainage on the westernmost seven miles to complete the project.
An average of 28,000 vehicles per day traveled this stretch in 2018, about half as many vehicles as traveled on I-40 at the Haywood and Buncombe County lines.
“We know this will be an inconvenience at times, and there will be delays,” Adams said. “But completing this work in this manner at this time of year is the best option considering the constraints of the mountain corridor. The project will provide better and safer driving conditions for at least 10-15 years into the future.”