HENDERSONVILLE – The major construction project on Interstate 26 in Henderson County is entering a new phase with two significant impacts to drivers starting in March.
Closing Butler Bridge Road over I-26 for 180 days starting March 15
Overnight closures of I-26 between exits in one direction for one week
The project requires closing Butler Bridge Road for 180 days starting on March 15 in order to remove the existing bridge and build a completely new bridge wide enough to span the interstate. Transportation officials have established a detour to manage the 13,000 vehicles per day that cross the bridge. It includes a temporary stop light at the intersection of Rugby Drive and North Rugby Road.
In order to accelerate the removal of the bridge over I-26 on Butler Bridge Road, transportation officials will divert one direction of traffic off I-26 to the Integrated Corridor Management system nightly for one week. This system provides longer green lights and uses the ICM route transportation officials utilized in 2020, when it proved effective in handling night traffic during overnight operations in Buncombe and Henderson counties.
“We have been planning for years with our friends in various agencies in both Henderson and Buncombe Counties for this big day,” NCDOT Division 14 Resident Engineer Mike Patton said. “We know that 180 days is a very tight timeframe to build a new bridge over an interstate from scratch. We also know that its important to complete this portion and the entire project as safely and quickly as possible.”
Transportation officials, Archer/Wright contract team representatives and various local agencies from Buncombe and Henderson Counties have been working toward these operations since preconstruction plans were approved by local, state and federal agencies.
The detour for Butler Bridge Road traffic creates a U-shape around construction. Drivers heading west will take U.S. 25 over I-26, turn right on Rugby Drive and turn right on North Rugby Road to complete the 4-mile detour. Drivers heading east will turn right from Butler Bridge Road onto North Rugby Road and turn left at the temporary signal onto Rugby Drive.
The ICM plan will be implemented for five nights starting March 15, allowing crews to remove portions of the existing bridge at night. Traffic heading on I-26 East from Asheville to Hendersonville will be diverted off at Airport Road (Exit 40) and directed 2.1 miles east to Hendersonville Road (U.S. 25) to turn right, drive for 4.6 miles and rejoin I-26 East.
Traffic headed on I-26 West from Hendersonville to Asheville will be diverted off at U.S. 25 (Exit 44) and travel north 4.6 miles, then turn left on Airport Road and travel 2.1 miles to rejoin I-26 West. Only one direction of I-26 traffic will be impacted per night.
The plan will save about $1 million in construction costs and allow contract crews to remove the bridges in two to four nights instead of having rolling roadblocks every night for two to three weeks.
NCDOT engineers developed the ICM system to direct local, commercial and emergency traffic to alternate routes between Hendersonville and Asheville in case of an emergency such as an extended closure of I-26 between I-40 and U.S. 64.
Transportation officials in Raleigh or at the Mountain Regional Traffic Management Center can remotely initiate the system in a matter of minutes, activate digital signs and change signal timing to allow more vehicles through signals along the detour routes. For example, signals on Asheville Highway, Hendersonville Road or Haywood Road would remain green for an extended time while side streets remain red longer to allow the detoured traffic to flow better along the parallel route.
NCDOT used a similar system in conjunction with rolling roadblocks four nights in 2020 with impressive results. When crews set girders for a new bridge on Clear Creek Road in September, traffic flowed freely overnight on the alternate routes.
“We designed the ICM for severe incidents and have found that it also has great benefits for construction purposes,” said Chad Franklin, Mountain Region Intelligent Traffic System engineer. “We’ve seen it work in other places, now we’ve seen it work here on a trial basis and we know it will be a big benefit this spring.”