A stretch of Interstate 40 at the Tennessee, North Carolina state line will be a mess until 2024, state officials say.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced on Friday, October 28th that crews will begin replacing aging bridges along I-40 roughly halfway between the Tennessee-North Carolina state line and Asheville starting in November, and likely will not be finished until 2024, reports 10 News.
The construction work will take place between November and May through May 2024, with all lanes temporarily opening in 2023 between June and October. Until then, NCDOT says that I-40 will be down to one lane in both directions for two miles between exit 20 and mile marker 18 in Haywood County once November hits. NCDOT and Tennessee DOT have worked together to set up signs alerting drivers of the closures on I-40 from the gorge all the way into Knox County.
The bridges over White Oak Road and Jonathan Creek will be the main focus, as they are at the end of their serviceable lives. The new bridges built in their place will also feature wildlife bridges, which will allow animals a safe passage across the road away from vehicles.
NCDOT recommends detours for motorists during peak travel days such as weekends or holidays, but acknowledges that all potential detours are lengthy. The main detour to Asheville from Tennessee or motorists adds about 45 minutes to the drive and will send drivers up I-81 North toward Kingsport instead of taking I-40 East at the split near Dandridge and then taking I-26 East through Johnson City down to Asheville.
NCDOT urges truckers to avoid these detours and stay on I-40 if traveling west to Tennessee because there are no safe truck routes through the mountains past Asheville.