Widening project planned for I-26 in WNC to ease congestion, improve structure

ARDEN, N.C. (WSPA) – Drivers stuck in bumper to bumper traffic inching along I-26 may have some relief in their future.

“If there’s an accident or someone gets pulled over for speeding, traffic starts to stack up,” said Arden resident Richard Doster. He was among more than 150 people who gave input Wednesday on widening an over 22 mile stretch of the interstate.

26-widening-1The North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to widen Interstate 26 from U.S. 25 in Henderson County to the 1-40/I-240 interchange just south of Asheville.

“It’s just more traffic volume than this road can handle,” said Rick Tipton, N.C.D.O.T. Division Construction Engineer. “Especially peak times – there’s pretty significant backups because the road’s just over capacity.”

D.O.T. IS looking at three widening options – creating 6 lanes, 8 lanes, or their preferred option of a hybrid.

“That minimizes the impacts to folks around the streams, wetlands, property owners,” said Tipton.

The project also includes replacing the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge. It would cost $445 million, and funded with federal and state dollars. Officials say the goals are reducing congestion and improving the road’s structure. D.O.T. said a lawsuit halted a similar effort more than 13 years ago.

Doster said it’s a long time coming.

“I hate to say it – I’ll believe it when I see it. But it’ll be great,” he said.

If all goes as planned, D.O.T. hopes to start construction in 2020.

N.C.D.O.T. officials say people can also make written comments until November 14th. South Carolina drivers are encouraged to chime in as well, since they also travel that part of I-26.

Learn more about the project here: https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/i26Widening/

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