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Tractor-trailer restriction aims to reduce I-26 backups

A new restriction on a stretch of Interstate 26 in Asheville targets improved safety and reduced congestion.

The N.C. Department of Transportation will unveil signs this week restricting trucks from the far left lane between the French Broad River and Long Shoals Road.

The lane restriction should improve safety by reducing congestion-related crashes and driving delays caused by trucks travelling side-by-side uphill toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“Speed data from a 10-month period in 2018 shows speeds along this section of I-26 averaged between 30 and 35 miles per hour during peak times,” said Bucky Galloway, NCDOT Western Region Field Operations Engineer. “We hope that restricting trucks to the right lane will improve mobility and safety for all motorists traveling this portion of I-26.”

The restriction prohibits trucks or truck and trailer combinations with a gross vehicle weight rating of greater than 26,000 pounds from using the left-most lane of I-26 in either direction. It will also apply during construction and after completion of a project to widen I-26 from I-40 through Hendersonville.

“This is an opportune time to enact the restriction with construction starting this fall or sooner,” Galloway said. “We hope this will be a positive strategy to offset some of the impact that construction will have on traffic along this corridor.”

An average of 85,000 vehicles traveled this section of I-26 per day in 2017, the highest average since tracking started in 2002.

The restriction is similar to the regulations in place on I-26 on the Saluda Grade, approaching and exiting the Green River Gorge in Henderson County and between the Tennessee state line and exit 9 in Madison County. Similar restrictions apply to I-40 approaching and on Old Fort Mountain, between exits 33 and 37 in Haywood County and between exit 20 and the Tennessee state line.

The restriction is effective immediately and State Highway Patrol will begin enforcement this week.

“We will be monitoring the area on a regular basis to ensure there is compliance,” Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. John Fairchild said. “Through our partnerships with trucking associations, it will benefit all of the motoring public, and help prevent traffic hazards and additional crashes.”

For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.