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NCDOT awards $263 million contract for I-26 widening in Buncombe

ASHEVILLE — Construction will commence soon on a major Interstate 26 project to reduce traffic congestion and improve travel in Buncombe and Henderson counties.

The N.C. Department of Transportation recently awarded a contract to widen Interstate 26 from Brevard Road to the Henderson County line near Airport Road. Bids for a companion project to widen I-26 from the county line to Four Seasons Boulevard in Henderson County will be received this fall. Work on that segment is expected to start in January, an NCDOT official told the Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee last month.

Fluor-United Joint Venture of Greenville, S.C., earned the contract with a bid of $263 million. Officials with Fluor-United said Tuesday they expect to begin construction by the end of September.

“After many years of waiting, we are excited to see this project moving forward,” Division 13 Engineer Mark Gibbs said. “While it will take some time to complete the project, ultimately it will greatly improve the travel time of those who utilize this segment of I-26.”

This portion of the I-26 widening project will expand the interstate from four lanes to eight lanes — four in each direction — from Brevard Road to the Henderson County line doubling the capacity of the interstate. The project also includes replacing the I-26 bridge over the French Broad River, the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over I-26, and two other bridges. Other project highlights include multiple retaining walls, upgrading all drainage systems, new concrete pavement and additional safety improvements to this corridor.

"Fluor and United are thrilled to be able to build a project that will improve the daily lives of so many citizens in Asheville," said Zack Hensley, project manager for Fluor. "This is a landmark project for NCDOT in the Asheville area, and we are committed to making this project successful."

At least two lanes of traffic will remain open in each direction during the day. The project should be completed in the spring of 2024. Division 13 engineers and Fluor-United officials are meeting regularly to determine project schedules, review and revise traffic-control plans, finalize other details, and prepare for the first official day of construction.

"United Infrastructure Group is proud to be part of the team selected to improve and expand I-26" said Jim Triplett, President and CEO of United. "As a third-generation, family-owned contractor in the Carolinas, we recognize the importance of this project for the citizens of Asheville and the western North Carolina region."

NCDOT employees and engineering partners have been preparing for this project for years by developing roadway and traffic control plans, securing the necessary environmental permits, developing a river usage plan and coordinating efforts with local officials to prepare for emergency response situations including winter storms.

A wide variety of agencies have helped prepare for the project, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Geological Survey, Buncombe County, Henderson County and other stakeholders.

“We are thankful to all of the agencies, partners and employees who have spent so much time preparing for this day,” Gibbs said. “NCDOT and Fluor-United look forward to delivering such a meaningful project to enhance the lives of so many people.”