Asheville Citizen-Times from Asheville, North Carolina on August 3, 2003 · Page 5
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Asheville Citizen-Times from Asheville, North Carolina · Page 5

Asheville, North Carolina
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 3, 2003
Page 5
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'ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES INTERSTATE 26 SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2003 A5 Once completed, the 1-26 corridor will stretch 350 miles from Charleston, S.C., to Kingsport, Tenn., where it intersects with 1-81. The new section of the road in Madison County likely will increase traffic through WNC, and provide a boost to development, changing the rural nature of the county forever. This 9-mile, $230-million section of interstate from the state line to Mars Hill was seven years in the making and literally involved moving mountains. The roadway consumed 600 acres of land and replaces U.S. 23 as the major artery in Madison County between North Carolina and Tennessee. U.S. 23 over Sams Gap will remain open but undoubtedly will see a tremendous drop in traffic, especially trucks. Big Laurel Creek Bridge Did you know? Contractors: The project involved three primary contractors and 79 subcontractors That's a lots of concrete: The road required 100,000 cubic yards of concrete. To put that in perspective, the ' average concrete truck carries between eight and 10 cubic yards. Using the smaller number, that s 12,500 trtickloads ot concrete. Why concrete? Concrete typically requires repair after 25 to 30 years of use, while asphalt will need work in 10 to 15 years. Steepest grade: 6 percent on the first 3.5 miles heading west Runaway trucks: Because of the grade, the eastbound . highway has three places for runaway trucks to ditch. how long It took: Construction began in October 1996. Planning started in 1989. Number of people who worked on the job: DOT officials estimate 3,000 people worked on the project. total road width: 112 feet - 72 feet of concrete travel lanes and four 10-foot-wide asphalt shoulders. Graffiti already? A DOT geologist repelling down the cut at Buckner Gap spray-painted "Geo tech rock" high up on the cut. Resident Engineer Stan Hyatt had him clamber back down the cut and cover it up with gray paint. It's still visible but probably won't be obvious to motorists traveling at 55 mph. A tunnel for the bears: The new roadway features a box culvert . animal underpass along a hollow to allow bears, foxes, deer and other wildlife to pass under the interstate without being struck. Fog detection system: It's new technology. The fog detection and warning system encompasses 10 miles. When fog rolls in, the detectors activate signs 2.5 miles farther back on the roadway, warning drivers of the danger. The elevation through this area is 3,370 feet, but at the top of the cut the peaks reach 4,000 feet. ' What about rockslldes? The new road has three major cuts, but DOT officials say ; better blasting techniques that create fewer fissures and less rubble should result in more stable cut rock faces. At ..V J Ramp 3 j fflll sML J I M The new section of roadway has one Yexit, at Wolf Laurel, j- : (fSiJs. ' Scenic Overlook Rest Area I '; L .: :'Z Welcome Center W 1 h " ' , 1 Madison County i 7-7. r One big bridge: The project includes arguably the state's highest bridge, the 21 5-foot, 1 ,000-foot-long span over Big Laurel Creek and Big Laurel Road (the Green River bridge on I-26 in Henderson County is about the same height). It features two enormous yet hollow 22-story-tall concrete piers, two smaller piers and eight, 90-inch-high steel beams. Each 120-foot section of beam weighed 30 tons and had to be lifted into place by two cranes with booms reaching 300 feet high. The bridge also features another first for the state: an anti-icing system that includes nozzles placed every 40 feet that spray an ice-melting solution, calcium magnesium acetate, on the road surface. The nozzles are fed by a 700-gallon tank down a nearby embankment and can be operated . manually or by remote via telephone modem. The system is supposed to offer anti-freezing protection down to 20 degrees below zero. The bridge alone took three and a half years to build and cost $14 million. TENNESs. NORTH ' ?, CAROLINA., 't: . . PISGAH. ' RATIONAL , '-t-Uttt&l s - lf I 2 miles A With a reduction of E J traffic on U.S. 23, J '" local residents 5 should see better I : : "'.v'"a ririvinn times and I The new 9-mile section of interstate cost $230 million and took almost seven years to complete. MADISON CpU NTY North Carolina Overlook: View toward Asheville from the overlook along the westbound lanes of the soon-to-be-opened section of 1-26 between Mars Hill and the Tennessee state line. 119 The 1-26 Connector - The DOT is considering four different proposals for this 3.2-mile section of roadway that would guide the interstate through Asheville and into southern Buncombe County -including a controversial eight-lane stretch through West Asheville. With a price tag of $298 million, the project will surpass the Madison County 1-26 segment. Work is supposed to begin in 2008 and end in 201 2. but politicians are working to expedite that timetable because increased interstate traffic likely will cause a bottleneck on the existing route through Asheville across the Smoky Park Bridge. - Mars Hill Weaverville Existing 1923 to Asheville - The five miles of 1923 from the end of the new interstate segment to the Forks of Ivy exit have been brought up to interstate standards and will be signed "I-26." The 14 miles from exit 13 into north Asheville where the proposed connector starts does not meet interstate standards and will be signed "Future I-26." Work is proposed for 2007 that would upgrade that segment -widening shoulders and bridges and improving guardrails, among other requirements. Hendersonville SPEED LIMIT 55 all vehicles going up 1 SPEED LIMIT 55 cars going down SPEED LIMIT 45 trucks going down l3s- 4-1- (1 s-i ruim to the Midwest? Canada, 1-26 in Henderson County - The DOT was prepared to let contracts this summer to widen 1-26 from the airport exit to East Flat Rock from four lanes to six. But environmental and advocacy groups sued the state, questioning the need for the project and if proper procedures were followed for environmental studies. DOT will have to conduct further studies. Eight miles In Buncombe - The 8.6 miles of 1-26 in Buncombe County, from 1-40 to Airport Road, are listed in the DOT'S 2004-2010 Transportation ; Improvement Plan as ... "programmed for planning and I environmental study only." Some j politicians and officials want to I widen this segment from four ! lanes to accommodate increased traffic. iMwv."V.uoiumous . SOUTH CAROLINA 10 miles Billboard-free zone Two years before work on the stretch of Interstate 26 was completed, the state Board of Transportation designated the road a North Carolina Scenic Byway. That means billboards won't be allowed on the stretch of road between the Tennessee line and the U.S. 19 interchange. Kentucky and Ohio - Although some transportation officials talk about the new section of i-26 opening up the Ohio area, don't look for the Interstate to continue north beyond 1-81. Kentucky four-laned its portion of U.S. 23 in the late 1 990s and has no plans to make It an interstate, while Ohio floated the idea of making U.S. 23 an Interstate in the early 1 990s but found the $1 -billion price tag out of the question. Average daily traffic f$ Average daily traffic . 8,400 t) 18,600 HjHAyt 1$ Jftgs Hige Jiftgt iB imt- iHiigi- JJftg ifige sftge sftge iSBs iSlgt iftge iftge nfege ftge iBg nftgr- iHigt Jiftg Hig nBlgt - 1 Detroit $M. Toledo V " ' " Cleveland pg V vhi(M ; ' ColuUuS . ; " f KihgsportX y7rJ I'" " V ua ' T 0 Kinosport vBristol '.. I 1a.i,..i. ! f WJ$ Columbia" rTenn.v , -T- Nua. )ffl.v.0,,u, ij- - . u Carolina Ij5HJJ?THSWWS The Tennessee portion - N lTUllUUUUlLiMJuMli- I Tannoccoo nnonori ilc cortinn . T1 Columbia of the new interstate in 1995. N Estimated It starts at the state line and V , - - , ' ' ChalKton On to the beach... :..m :ii On to Charleston -1-26 continues all the way to Charleston, S.C., a popular beach ; anA trtnrict iittrnntinn Thp rnjirl nl;n nins through South Carolina's capital, w.t.M . A 1. IUUIUI Nv-y- South1 X Car"na The ENVIRONMENT Butterfly sanctuary Workers created areas along Interstate 26 that they hope will become a sanctuary for monarch butterflies. They've planted plenty of milkweed - the monarch's favorite - in some areas in hopes of attracting the insects. Trees planted along the roadway: 400,000, plus about 1 ,000 pounds of tree seed spread by helicopter. Crown vetch The pretty plant on the roadsides of the new stretch of Interstate 26 is actually considered by some to be an invasive species. The ground cover, which has been used by DOT for years, is native to Europe. Because of its ability to reproduce, it can crowd out native plants. However, DOT says the agency is not releasing another kudzu. Officials say the plant "won't overshadow trees or kill out things." "It's not a real nuisance plant," one DOT official said. The plant is used for erosion control. Cities Distance LASheyllle to rfuhtjnoto.rv"W,Va;;;'348 miles' 5 hri 55 min.', Asheville to Columbus, Ohio 470 miles 7 hr. 38 min. Mevlijelo Asheville to Detroit 625 miles 10 hr. 7 min. SOURCE: MapQuesI The Tennessee portion - Tennessee opened its section of the new interstate in 1995. It starts at the state line and intersects with 1-81 at the northern tip of Tennessee, which explains why it is called 1-181. Once North Carolina opens its section, Tennessee will rename it 1-26. Cities Distance Charleston, S.C. to Kinosport, Tenn.' 353 miles Columbia, S.C. to Kingsport, Tenn. 243 miles 'Asheville to Johnson City, Tenn. Z'Z'. 63 miles Asheville to Kingsport, Tenn. 88 miles Asheville to Bristol, Var, ': : ; .'; ' 86 miles SOURCE: MapQuesI Estimated travel time 6hr. 2 min. 4 hr. 15 min. i ht.i7.min.. 1 hr. 43 min. 1 hr. 48 min. nfEN-T

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