Interstate 240 North Carolina


Interstate 240 in North Carolina comprises an urban loop route into Downtown Asheville from Interstate 40 to the south. Interstate 240 takes a convoluted path throughout the city limits of Asheville, following portions of original bypass routes for U.S. 19 and 23 to U.S. 70 east to Town Mountain Road.

The western terminus of Interstate 240 also marks the historic western terminus of Interstate 26. On August 5, 2003, the Interstate 26 designation extended north along the U.S. 19/23 freeway and Interstate 181 in Tennessee to Interstate 81 south of Kingsport. This extension includes a four mile overlap over the western half of Interstate 240 at Asheville.

Planned Improvements

With the Interstate 26 extension to the Tri-Cities of Tennessee, the substandard section of Interstate 240 in west Asheville remains signed as "Future Interstate 26" until that stretch is upgraded. The 1960s era freeway does not meet current Interstate standards. Additionally the Interstate 26/U.S. 19-23 interchange near downtown involves sharp curves and single lane ramps. Traffic congestion plagues the substandard freeway and the Smoky Park Bridges over the French Broad River are already at capacity. A new facility, the I-26 Connector, is needed to meet 2025 forecast traffic counts. The I-26 Connector will bypass the French Broad River bridge of I-240 as the new alignment of I-26.5

The I-26 Connector includes upgrading 4.3 miles of Interstates 26/240 from the I-40 junction to the Patten Avenue interchange west of the French Broad River. From there northward to Interstate 26/U.S. 19-23-70 south of Broadway Street, a new 2.6 mile alignment will be constructed across the French Broad River. Included in the project are interchange improvements for the junctions with 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 may commence in 2021.1

In May 2016, NCDOT finalized a route for Section B of the I-26 Connector, thus 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 while also reserving the existing Bowen Bridge for more pedestrian and bicycle facilities.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. Bowen Bridge will be retained and refitted for additional space for bicyclists and pedestrians and opened to more 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 the new facility are at $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. Three miles of Interstate 240 between Interstate 40 and Patton Avenue followed by 1970. This portion was designated as North Carolina 191. Completion in late 1980 involved the eastern portion of freeway across Beaucatcher Mountain.2

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 40/26 - Asheville, North Carolina
Perspective from Interstate 26 west
Interstate 26 westbound, nearing the Interstate 40/240 junction. This is now the historical western terminus, as Interstate 26 continues northward along Interstate 240 toward Tennessee. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
This sign bridge allocates the lanes for Exit 1A/B on Interstate 26 west. U.S. 74 departs Interstate 26 for Interstate 40 at this junction. Traffic for Interstate 26 and 240 and the city of Asheville is advised to stay toward the right. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
This guide sign may be obsolete now that Interstate 26 allows motorists to follow just one route northward to the Tri-Cities of Tennessee in place of U.S. 19-23. U.S. 70 also ties into the fold about midway along the Interstate 240 bypass of Asheville. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Pre-Interstate 26 extension diagrammatic overhead for the Interstate 26 junction with Interstate 40/U.S. 74 west and Intestate 240 east. Two lanes are allocated for both directions as Interstate 26 carries Spartanburg and other South Carolina based traffic to the Great Smokeys via Interstate 40 west. Exit 1A departs at this location to Interstate 40 east and the city of Hickory. Top photo taken by Carter Buchanan (06/00); bottom photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Thus far, the first Interstate 26 mentioning for the extension via Interstate 240 eastbound. Through the city of Asheville one eastbound reassurance shield is posted, and otherwise Interstate 26 shields are affixed to the top of Interstate 240 and U.S. 19-23 guide signs. Photo taken 08/23/03.
The split of Exit 1B/Interstate 40 and U.S. 74 west from Interstate 26 west/240 east. Downtown Asheville is five miles to the northeast. The city of Knoxville is 103 miles to the west. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Interstate 26 westbound merge onto Interstate 240 east at Interstate 40. Note that the original Interstate 240 shield on the right-hand panel was removed in favor of smaller Interstate 26-240 shields. An interesting numbering anomaly occurs with the Interstate 26 extension into the Volunteer State. The interchange of which Interstate 26 ended at Interstate 40 is signed at Exit 46. The new terminus at Interstate 81/181 is also signed as Exit 46 via Interstate 81... Photo taken 08/23/03.
Beyond the Interstate 40 and U.S. 74 west off-ramps, Interstate 26 west and 240 east see the first Interstate 240 reassurance shield. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Perspective from Interstate 240 west
The final mile of Interstate 240 parallels Interstate 40 just to the north. Due to close proximity, a direct ramp to Interstate 40 east does not exist. Instead traffic must utilize North Carolina 191/Brevard Road to access the freeway in the eastbound direction. The state route connects Interstate 26/240 Exit 1B with Interstate 40/Exit 47. Photos taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
The North Carolina 191 diamond interchange as seen from Interstate 26 east/240 west. The junction Interstate 26/40 sign was in place of an Interstate 240 west pull-through panel. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Interstate 26/240 expand to three lanes in anticipation of the Interstate 40/Exit 1A junction. The Haywood County seat of Canton is included with Knoxville, Tennessee as a control point for Interstate 40. The town is situated near the U.S. 74 split from Interstate 40 via the Smokey Mountain Thruway. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Interstate 240 westbound as it transferred to Interstate 26 east at Interstate 40. This image shows the Interstate 40 westbound ramp/Exit 1A as the mainline Interstate 240 lanes continued southward to Interstate 26. Asheville Regional Airport is another nine miles to the south. Vidcap taken 08/08/99.
Just two months before the Interstate 26 extension was signed, Interstate 240 at the historic eastbound beginning of Interstate 26 and conclusion of itself. In the background was the first Interstate 26 shield and associated U.S. 74 east trailblazer. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Perspective from Interstate 40 east
With U.S. 74 in tow, Interstate 40 eastbound approaches the Interstate 26 junction and Interstate 240 terminus interchange complex. U.S. 74 departs from Interstate 40 onto Interstate 26 after a 19 mile overlap. Interstate 26 carries the US highway another 37 miles before U.S. 74 finally sees some pavement of its own. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Within one-half mile of Interstate 26 east/Exit 46A on Interstate 40/U.S. 74 eastbound. Hendersonville is the next destination of significance for Interstate 26. The town is located off Exit 18, 18 miles to the south. Spartanburg, South Carolina is approximately 60 miles to the southeast. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Interstate 40 eastbound at the split with U.S. 74 east for Interstate 26 east/Exit 46A. Exit 46B for Interstate 240 east and now Interstate 26 west departs from the left at the upcoming stack. The freeway loop serves the downtown Asheville area, connecting with U.S. 19/23/70 to the north. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Continuing beyond the Interstate 26/U.S. 74 eastbound ramp Interstate 40 splits with Interstate 26 west/240 east. As of the third week of August 2003, Interstate 26 signage is sparse along Interstate 240 and not acknowledged at all on Exit 46B guide signs. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 40 east
Interstate 240 7 miles at east Asheville, NC
Interstate 77 106 miles at Statesville, NC
Interstate 74
147 miles at Winston-Salem, NC
Perspective from Interstate 40 west
The first guide sign for Interstate 26 on Interstate 40 westbound, one and a half miles to the east. Exit 47 for North Carolina 191 parallels Interstate 26 and 240 in this general vicinity and allows for return access to Interstate 26 west/Interstate 240 east from Interstate 40 west. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
A early fall display of the Interstate 26/U.S. 74 and North Carolina 191 sign bridge displayed in the above photograph. Photo taken by Brian LeBlanc (09/00).
Westbound Interstate 40, one mile from Exit 46A/Interstate 26/U.S. 74 east. North Carolina 191 intersects Interstate 26 at the next southward interchange of the freeway (Exit 2). Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Exit 47 traffic departs for North Carolina 191 as Interstate 40 prepares to intersect Interstate 26/U.S. 74 west. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Westbound Interstate 40 at Junction Interstate 26 Eastbound. There is no access to Westbound Interstate 26/Eastbound Interstate 240 from this interchange as it is currently configured. Note that Interstate 26/U.S. 74 eastbound (Exit 46A, note that there is no Exit 46B) departs from the left. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
A second perspective of the Interstate 26/U.S. 74 sign bridge on Interstate 40 westbound. U.S. 74 continues westward with Interstate 40 to Exit 27 where it departs as the limited access Appalachian Thruway. Photo taken by Brian LeBlanc (09/00).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 40 west
Interstate 81 80 miles near Dandridge, TN
Interstate 640 108 miles at east Knoxville, TN
Interstate 275 114 miles at downtown Knoxville, TN
Eastern Terminus - Interstate 40 - east of Asheville, North Carolina
Perspective from Interstate 240 east
The final mainline interchange of Interstate 240 is Exit 8 with U.S. 74 Alternate westbound. The US route shares a short one mile overlap with Interstate 240 between Exit 8 and the terminus at Exit 9. Otherwise the highway connects North Carolina 81/River Road to the northeast. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
The eastbound lanes of Interstate 240 default onto Interstate 40 eastbound. This auxiliary sign reminds the motorists of this fact as the Asheville loop enters its final interchange. Note that the Interstate 40 control city is that of Statesville (the location of the junction with Interstate 77). This differs from the control city of Hickory posted for Interstate 40 at the western terminus of Interstate 240. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
The conclusion of Interstate 240 eastbound at the Exit 9 split of the Interstate 40 and U.S. 74 Alternate eastbound ramps. To the right the ramp to Interstate 40 and the city of Knoxville departs U.S. 74A. The US route otherwise intersects the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway within the next 0.75 miles. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Interstate 40 west Knoxville guide sign on the Exit 9 ramp departure from Interstate 240. Knoxville is 110 miles west of the eastern terminus of Interstate 240. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
U.S. 74 Alternate as it departs the Interstate system at the Interstate 40 westbound ramp. The bridge in the background is that of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Further to the southeast are the towns of Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Perspective from Interstate 40 east
As Interstate 40 eastbound departs the Exit 51 interchange with U.S. 25 Alternate - Sweeten Creek Road, the one mile guide sign is encountered for Exits 53A/B - Interstate 240 west and U.S. 74 Alternate. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Entering the Exit 53 interchange at the eastbound ramp for U.S. 74 Alternate. The aforementioned control city of Bat Cave is 20 miles to the southeast. The picturesque Chimney Rock State Park is just three miles to the east of that town. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Wintertime view of the Interstate 40 Exit 53A off-ramp for U.S. 74 Alternate east. The mainline of U.S. 74 routes along Interstate 26 from the western terminus of Interstate 240 to its own freeway near Columbus. From there U.S. 74 is a limited access highway eastward to Mooresboro. U.S. 74 Alternate travels from Bat Cave to Rutherford and Forest City to meet the parent route. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
A cloverleaf ramp facilitates the return movement of Interstate 40 east to the northwest via Interstate 240 and U.S. 74 Alternate. The first exit the Asheville loop encounters is the U.S. 74 Alternate departure via Fairview Road. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Leafless trees dot the landscape during the winter chill of January on Interstate 40 east at Interstate 240/U.S. 74 Alternate west. Traffic continuing on Interstate 40 east will reach the city of Hickory in 51 miles and Statesville in 95 miles. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Taking the Exit 53B cloverleaf ramp from Interstate 40 eastbound dumps traffic onto U.S. 74 Alternate westbound. From there the route transitions into the Interstate 240 westbound beginning as proclaimed by this begin shield assembly. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Perspective from Interstate 40 west
0.75 miles east of the Interstate 40/240 westbound split at Exit 53. Asheville is the County Seat for Buncombe County and has a population of 68,889. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Auxiliary guide sign for Exit 53B indicating the connection of Interstate 240 and U.S. 74 Alternate into downtown Asheville. The city center is four miles to the northwest of this junction. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
A second view of the Exit 53B/Interstate 240/U.S. 74 Alternate downtown guide sign. The state of North Carolina will sign the original route of a U.S. highway after it has been relocated to a freeway as either Alternate or Business depending on the location of the route with regards to population centers. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Interstate 40 westbound at the Exit 53B/Interstate 240 westbound beginning. The Asheville loop meets Interstate 26 and U.S. 19-23-70 in five miles. The city of Asheville is also served by U.S. 25, a route that traverses the city center from Exit 5A of Interstate 240 to Exit 50 of Interstate 40. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).
Looking at the Interstate 40/240 westbound split during the heart of Winter. There are nine interchanges of Interstate 240 to serve the city of Asheville. Interstate 40 meanwhile sees four westbound interchanges and five eastbound ones for the city. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (01/20/02).
Original concrete and sigh lighting fixtures as seen during the late 20th century. The state of North Carolina still uses overhead lighting assemblies for their guide signs. South Carolina and Virginia nearby also retain highway sign lighting. Vidcap taken 08/08/99.
A second begin Interstate 240 shield is posted on the ramp from Interstate 40 west. In the background is the Exit 8 departure of U.S. 74 Alternate to North Carolina 81. U.S. 70 will enter the Asheville loop at Exit 7 in one mile. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (06/19/03).


  1. I-26 Connector, Asheville, NC Public Information Website. NCDOT.
  2. I-240.
  3. "Local backing helped make I-26 Connector route choice." Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 19, 2016.
  4. "Connector route taking traffic off Bowen Bridge picked." Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 19, 2016.

Page Updated May 19, 2016.


State North Carolina
Mileage 9.54
Cities Asheville
Junctions Interstate 26/Interstate 40, Interstate 40
Source: December 31, 2015 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Asheville Inset from the 1980-81 North Carolina Official Highway Map
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.