New I-26 Signal System Helps Drivers Find Alternate Routes

Cars driving on the interstate under a sunset.
Xan Griffin / Unsplash

New directional signs from Hendersonville to Asheville sprouted this year as part of an innovative signal system designed to guide drivers around major incidents on Interstate 26. 

N.C. Department of Transportation crews installed signs and upgraded signal systems along I-26 alternate routes such as Asheville Highway and Hendersonville Road as part of a new Incident Corridor Management System.

The system was activated for the first time, thankfully in a non-emergency situation, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Sept. 15-16. 

“We’re fortunate to have so many engineers and technicians put so much time and energy into developing a system that will help thousands of people driving the I-26 corridor,” said Chad Franklin, Regional Information Traffic System Engineer. “We’re happy to use the system for the first time in a non-emergency situation. It’s like a dress rehearsal.”

Rolling roadblocks with delays up to 30 minutes on I-26 in Henderson County between U.S. 64 and U.S. 25 Business are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the westbound lanes, and 7 p.m. Wednesday for eastbound lanes. The rolling roadblocks will allow contract crews to safely place girders for a new bridge on Clear Creek Road over I-26. 

Asheville Highway will serve as an alternate route on both nights. The new ICM system will provide longer green lights on Asheville Highway, giving drivers the choice to wait on I-26 during the rolling roadblock or to take the alternate route with more green light time. 

“We hope drivers choose to take the alternate route and use the new ICM on Tuesday and Wednesday night,” Franklin said. “It should provide drivers with a quicker route around construction and will provide us with feedback on how to improve all of the timing.”

NCDOT engineers developed the ICM system to direct local, commercial and emergency traffic to alternate routes between Hendersonville and Asheville in case of an emergency such as an extended closure of I-26 between I-40 and U.S 64. 

Transportation officials in Raleigh or at the Mountain Regional Traffic Management Center can remotely initiate the system in a matter of minutes, activate the digital signs and change signal timing to allow more vehicles through signals along the detour routes.

For example, signals on Hendersonville Road (U.S. 25), Long Shoals Road, Airport Road, Brevard Road, or Haywood Road (N.C. 191) would remain green for an extended time period while side streets remain red longer to allow the detoured traffic to flow better along the alternate route. 

“Our traffic and signal teams have put in a lot of time and technical work to design and implement this important system,” Franklin said. “We’re very fortunate to have this specialized system in Western North Carolina.”

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