Project Map
I-26 Widening Vicinity Map
Project Fast Facts
  • Status: Projects Under Development
  • County: Buncombe, Henderson
  • Type of Project: Widening
  • STIP Numbers: I-4400/I-4700
  • Estimated Costs: $6 million for right-of-way; $392 million for construction
  • Property Acquisition Start: Fiscal Year 2018
  • Start Date: 2019
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I-26 Widening Project Visualizations

I-26 Widening Project Visualizations

I-26 Widening Flyover

Related Links
I-26 Widening Board logo

Project Overview and Purpose

To help provide for high-speed, safe and efficient travel, planning and development is underway on a proposed project to widen approximately 22.2 miles of I-26 from U.S. 25, near Hendersonville, to I-40/240, south of Asheville.

The project is divided into two project sections:

  • Section I-4400 is a 13.6-mile stretch begins at U.S. 25 (Exit 54) near Hendersonville, and extends along I-26 west to N.C. 280 (Exit 40).
  • Section I-4700 is an 8.6-mile stretch that extends along I-26 from N.C. 280 west to the I-40/240 interchange. Work will also involve replacing the Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge over I-26.

Widening I-26 in the area would help improve existing and projected deficiencies when it comes to roadway capacity.

Sections of I-26 currently operate at levels of congestion characterized by unstable travel speeds with a high level of discomfort to the driver. As projected traffic volumes increase, more sections of I-26 are projected to operate at similar levels of congestion. By 2040, I-26 is anticipated to operate over capacity, hindering its ability to serve high-speed regional travel.

The project would also improve insufficient pavement structure and deteriorating existing road surface conditions. The existing roadway surface on I-26 in the project area has twice, most recently in 2011, undergone major rehabilitation.

Project Highlights

The N.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration agree that the Preferred Alternative for the proposed project is the Hybrid 6/8-Lane Widening Alternative. It involves widening I-26 to three lanes in each direction between U.S. 25 and the I-26/U.S. 25 (Asheville Highway) interchange. It also involves widening I-26 to four lanes in each direction from the U.S. 25 (Asheville Highway) to the I-40/I-240 interchange.

The Hybrid selection is a result of a thorough review of the results of an impact assessment for three widening alternatives documented in the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The decision is a result of a thorough review of the results of the impact assessment for the three widening alternatives documented in the study’s The decision was also based on an assessment of the comments made on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement by local governments, government agencies, non-government organizations and the public.

The Hybrid 6/8-Lane Alternative is the Preferred Alternative because it meets the project's purpose and need of reducing congestion and it has the fewest impacts to the community and environment. The Preferred Alternative was also identified as the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative by environmental agency partners.

U.S. 25 Interchange

During an October 2016 public comment period, NCDOT heard concerns from the public that proposed interchange improvements at U.S. 25 (Asheville Highway, Exit 44) would result in a footprint that had too many impacts to homes and businesses.

NCDOT chose to build a diverging diamond interchange after studying two design possibilities that would reduce the footprint – the other being a synchronized interchange.

By comparison to the previously proposed interchange, shown at the public hearing in October 2016, the revised diverging diamond interchange reduces the number of buildingfrom 11 to 0 and the number of impacted parcels of property from 41 to 11. It also has fewer impacts to streams, wetlands, and natural communities and has a reduced cost.

U.S. 64 Interchange

During the public comment period in October 2016, NCDOT also heard concerns from citizens and local officials that the U.S. 64 interchange with I-26 (Exit 49) needed improvement.

After studying the interchange, NCDOT decided to upgrade it to a design called "Partial Cloverleaf B with Enhanced Left Turns" to improve traffic flow through the interchange. This design will keep two of the existing loop ramps to exit I-26 and make all exiting vehicles turn right onto U.S. 64 from the freeway exits. This design will also create opposing left-turn lanes upstream of the interchange for traffic turning onto I-26.

These lanes are designed to more efficiently move all traffic patterns through the interchange. This design also provides accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists on U.S. 64 through the interchange.

I-26 Bridge Over the French Broad River

I-26 will be widened to four lanes in both directions from U.S. 25 (Asheville Highway) in Henderson County to I-40/I-240. This stretch includes the two bridges over the French Broad River that will be replaced with one span. Before construction begins, it’s necessary to determine how the new bridge will be built and how the old bridges will be removed. To build the new bridge and demolish the old ones, NCDOT will causeways in the river.

It is also important for NCDOT to implement safety procedures and alternatives for river-goers during the project. None of the construction or demolition will have an impact on safety or usage downstream of the bridges. NCDOT will provide a “safe passage lane” in the water for river users that will include floating navigational aids to reduce the risk of accidents. NCDOT will also require the contractor to install a catchment device on the structures to prevent construction material from falling in the water.

While developing these initial safety plans, NCDOT found that there is no easy way to provide portage around the bridge. The closest public pull-out is at Bent Creek River Park, about a mile upstream of the bridges. From there, boaters would then drive about 6 miles north on N.C. 191, to reach the next public put-in at Hominy Creek River Park. NCDOT also found that it could be possible to provide a pull-out and put-in at the bridge, This, however, would require users to walk through an active construction zone. Providing a safe passage lane for the duration of construction is a safer and more reasonable option.

NCDOT recognizes that boat trips can begin well upstream, as far as the headwaters in Transylvania County. Public access points are at Westfeldt Park and Horseshoe Park in Henderson County and at Bent Creek River Park in Buncombe County. Working with appropriate partners, NCDOT will place signage at boat access locations to alert river users to the construction downstream. NCDOT will also advise the public through other means, such as its website and social media.

Hydraulics experts have examined how the causeways will affect river levels and depth and determined that there will be minor impacts. With the temporary causeways in place, the river level will increase approximately 10 inches during a 100-year storm event, and that would have no new impacts to existing structures. This rise will decrease with distance. There is no anticipated flooding downstream of the bridge.

Project History

Legal Issues

After NCDOT advertised the I-4400 project in March 2002 as a design-build project, a lawsuit was filed against both NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. In 2003, a court determined that NCDOT should conduct a broader analysis of the cumulative environmental impacts and logical termini (project limits) of the overall expansion of the I-26 corridor. The project was subsequently placed on hold due to financial constraints.

Project Moves Forward

Because of the growing needs for improvements to the I-26 corridor, NCDOT reinitiated the project in 2013 and included it in State Transportation Improvement Program, NCDOT's 10-year transportation plan that identifies the construction funding for and scheduling of transportation projects.

To comply with the court’s 2003 order, NCDOT combined the analysis of I-4400 with the analysis of I-4700 into one comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.

Aug. 12, 2016: Draft Environmental Impact Statement Approved

On Aug. 12, 2016, the Federal Highway Administration approved the Draft Environmental Impact Statement which includes information about the direct and indirect effects the proposed project could have on the human and natural environments. NCDOT included this data in the Draft Environment Impact Statement and public feedback to identify the best lane-design alternative for the proposed improvements.

Public Involvement

Documents and Maps for Public Review

Documents and Maps for Public Review

NCDOT is holding the following meeting to answer questions and receive comments from the public on the proposed project:

Monday, April 16, 2018
4 to 7 p.m.

Biltmore Baptist Church
Terrace Hall
35 Clayton Road
Arden, NC 28704

Please note that maps of the study area will be on display but there will not be a formal presentation.

The opportunity to provide written comments will be provided at the meeting, and comments are encouraged.

In addition, comments may be submitted online or by mail at the address below until May 1, 2018.

Kat Bukowy, AICP
343 E. Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC 27609

NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for disabled individuals who want to participate in these meetings. Anyone requiring such services should contact Caitlyn Ridge, at (919) 707-6091, as early as possible so that arrangements can be made.

For individuals who speak only Spanish or have a limited ability to read, speak or understand English, interpretive services will be available at the meeting upon request. For more information, call 1-800-481-6494 prior to the meeting.

Project Timeline

Milestone Date*
Environmental Assessment completed May 2001
Finding of No Significant Impact completed January 2002
Project technical reports 2013 to 2016
Draft Environmental Impact Statement approved August 2016
Public hearing Oct. 13, 2016
Preferred Alternative and Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative chosen Jan. 18, 2017
Final environmental document published Spring 2018
Right of way acquisition begins Fiscal Year 2018
Construction begins 2019

* Future dates are preliminary and subject to change

Project Documents

Documents and Maps

Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation

Preferred Alternative Visualizations

Traffic Noise Report

Public Meeting Materials

Public Hearing Handout

Noise Policy

Comment Sheet

Display Boards

Project Newsletters

April 2017 Newsletter

August 2016 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation

Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation


Appendix A (see Technical Reports below)

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Appendix G

Appendix H

Appendix I

Appendix J

Appendix K

Appendix A: Technical Reports

August 2016 Public Hearing Maps

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 1

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 2

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 3

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 4

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 5

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 6

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 7

I-4400/I-4700 Public Hearing Map Sheet 8

2013 Public Meeting Materials

I-4400/4700 Aerial-Citizens Informational Workshop  (January 2013)

I-4400/4700 Constraints-Citizens Informational Workshop (January 2013)

Citizens Informational Workshop Handout  (January 2013)

Contact Information

Jennifer Martin, P.E.
Project Manager
(919) 707-6050
Send a message
1582 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC, 27699-1582

Resources for Local Property Owners

Although the N.C. Department of Transportation works to minimize the number of homes and businesses displaced by a road project, it is inevitable, in many cases, that a certain amount of private property is needed. The following information explains right of way acquisition and answers questions about the process.