Interstate 240 North Carolina
Interstate 240 comprises an urban loop from Interstate 40 through Asheville. The freeway handles commuter traffic through West Asheville and Downtown and also disperses Future I-26 traffic south from Weaverville and Woodfin to points west and east along I-40. The western half of I-240 takes a convoluted path as it utilizes a portion of original bypass routes constructed for U.S. 19 and 23 east to U.S. 70 east and Town Mountain Road (NC 694).
The western terminus of Interstate 240 also marks the historic west end of Interstate 26. I-26 was extended north along the U.S. 23 corridor to Johnson City on August 5, 2003. This resulted in a four mile overlap with I-240 through West Asheville, where cardinal directions are posted opposite for each route.
East End – Asheville, NC
West End – Asheville, NC
Mileage – 9.54
Cities – Asheville
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
The final section of I-240 completed linked the original U.S. 70 bypass of Downtown with U.S. 70 along Tunnel Road. This portion bypassed the two-lane Beaucatcher Tunnel along U.S. 70 & 74.
The U.S. 19-23-70 freeway leading north from Interstate 240 and Patton Avenue in Downtown Asheville remains below interstate standards. The Bowen / Smoky Park Bridge across the river is equally substandard, with no shoulders and heavy traffic. As such, the 1960s-built freeway north to Woodfin is designated as Future I-26 until upgrades are made along the corridor. A portion of the route will be bypassed by the I-26 Connector, a new alignment and bridge across the French Broad River planned to meet 2025 forecast traffic counts.5
The I-26 Connector includes upgrading 4.3 miles of Interstates 26/240, from the junction with I-40 northeast to the Patton Avenue interchange. North from there, a new 2.6 mile alignment will be constructed taking Interstate 26 across the French Broad River to U.S. 19-23-70 south of Broadway Street. Included in the project are interchange improvements for exits to Interstate 40, North Carolina 191, Amboy Road, U.S. 19-23 Business/Haywood Road, and Patten Avenue. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the I-26 Connector was released in October 2015. Work on the estimated $600-800 million project will start in 2021.1
In May 2016, NCDOT finalized a route for Section B of the I-26 Connector, clearing a major hurdle in relation to the overall project. Dubbed Alternative 4B, and heavily favored by local residents3, this selection for the I-26 & 240 corridors separates local and through traffic.4 The new configuration will take I-240 traffic from Downtown along U.S. 19 & 23 north before turning west near Hill Street to cross over the French Broad River. New spans will cross the river in a sweeping arc, returning the I-240 mainline in the vicinity of Patton Avenue. The existing Bowen Bridge will be refitted to provide additional space for bicyclists and pedestrians and repurposed for local traffic between Asheville and West Asheville. The present exchange between the I-240 and U.S. 19 & 23 freeways near the east end of the Bowen Bridge will be also be modernized as part of the project. As a result of selecting this alternative, the I-26 & 240 concurrency will be extended by up to 0.7 miles. Current estimated costs for Section B are $332 million, and construction should begin in late 2023 or 20244 and run for at least three years.3
Interstate 240 opened in stages between the early 1960s and 1980. AASHTO approved the establishment of the route on July 13, 1976.
The first portion to open was the original U.S. 70 bypass freeway north of Downtown. Another three miles of Interstate 240, between Interstate 40 and Patton Avenue, were completed by 1970. This portion was designated as North Carolina 191. Completion in late 1980 involved the eastern portion of freeway across Beaucatcher Mountain.2
East End – east of Asheville, North Carolina
West End – Asheville, North Carolina
|Perspective from Interstate 240 west|
|A wye interchange adds traffic to I-26 east & 240 west from Amboy Road just prior to the off-ramp (Exit 1B) for North Carolina 191 (Brevard Road). N.C. 191 provides the connection to Interstate 40 east as the forthcoming exchange between the two freeways is incomplete due to area topography. Photo taken 12/31/13.|
|Spanning Hominy Creek, a third lane opens westbound for the upcoming ramp (Exit 31B) for Interstate 40 & U.S. 74 west to Canton. Prior to the 2003 extension of I-26, the westbound ramp was assigned as Exit 1A. Photo taken 12/31/13.|
|Interstate 240 west ends as the freeway mainline continues southward as I-26 & U.S. 74 east to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), Hendersonville and Columbus. Photo taken 12/31/13.|
|Perspective from Interstate 26 & U.S. 74 west|
|Interstate 26 & U.S. 74 west make an S-curve across Hominy Creek on the half mile approach to Interstates 40 and 240 east. An $11.9 million project replaced the bridges over Hominy Creek, with work completed in fall 2016.5 A sign bridge for the upcoming ramps (Exits 31B/A) to I-40 was removed during that construction, which is part of a long term expansion plan (through 2025) for I-26 throughout Buncombe and Henderson Counties. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|Sign replacements made at Exits 31A/B added Biltmore Estate for I-40 east and Johnson City for the continuation of I-26 west onto Interstate 240 east. Interstate 40 passes through the Biltmore Estate, which spreads to the east and south of the French Broad River nearby, to Morganton and Hickory. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|A left-hand ramp follows for the continuation of U.S. 74 west along Interstate 40 to Canton and Lake Junaluska. Interstate 26 overlaps with I-240 from this point northeast to West Asheville and Downtown. Ensuing exit numbers reset to U.S. 19-23-70. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|Historic Perspective from Interstate 26 & U.S. 74 west|
|Former diagrammatic sign posted at the Interstate 26 & U.S. 74 westbound ramp for I-40 east. Prior to sign changes made in July and August 2003, I-26 ended opposite the eastbound beginning of Interstate 240. Photo taken by Carter Buchanan (06/00).|
|See the original western terminus of Interstate 26 for additional coverage.|
|Historic Perspective from Interstate 40 & U.S. 74 east|
|Interstate 40 east at Interstate 240, just prior to the signing of I-26 north to Johnson City, Tennessee. Photo taken 08/23/03.|
|See the Interstate 26 guide for additional photos covering the joint termini of I-26 west and I-240 west in this direction.|
|Perspective from Interstate 40 east|
|Heading east from U.S. 19-23 and Enka, Interstate 40 & U.S. 74 advance with four lanes to the directional interchange (Exits 46A/B) with I-26 and I-240 east. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|Back to back lane drops occur at the succeeding ramps for Interstate 26 & U.S. 74 east to Hendersonville and I-26 west & 240 east to Downtown Asheville. Future road work will upgrade the substandard interchange to include a high speed flyover departing from the right to Interstates 26 & 240 through Asheville. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|Interstate 26 extends south from the west end of I-240 as an busy commuter route to Fletcher and Hendersonville. I-26 also acts as a gateway to the Appalachian Mountains from South Carolina and the Southeast coast. Photo taken 12/31/13.|
|Exit 46B follows as a left-hand ramp for the winding freeway of Interstates 26 west & 240 east through West Asheville. I-40 continues east as a four-lane freeway across the Biltmore Estate to the communities of Biltmore and Oakley. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
|Perspective from Interstate 40 west|
|Interstates 40 and 26-240 parallel one another to respective interchanges with North Carolina 191 (Brevard Road) as they run along side the French Broad River. N.C. 191 constitutes a surface route connection from I-40 west to I-240 east presently. A new collector distributor roadway will be built further west to provide direct access to the Asheville loop as part of Section C of the I-26 Connector project. Photo taken 10/23/15.|
- I-26 Connector, Asheville, NC Public Information Website. NCDOT.
- NCRoads.com: I-240.
- “Local backing helped make I-26 Connector route choice.” Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 19, 2016.
- “Connector route taking traffic off Bowen Bridge picked.” Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 19, 2016.
- “Answer Man: I-26 bridge work over Pond Road halted?” Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), February 17, 2016.
Page updated November 30, 2016.