Blue Ridge Road, I-40 interchange construction postponed until 2025
Construction for a new interchange at Interstate 40 and Blue Ridge Road has been postponed until 2025, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Voted by the Board of Aldermen at its July session, right-of-way acquisition is scheduled for June 2021 with an initial construction date having been set for June 2023.
Delays with the Black Mountain project, along with other Buncombe County road developments, follow the NCDOT announcing a 12.5% increase in spending for 2019 in its May audit. Overspending, along with settlements exceeding $600 million, have caused in-state projects to be postponed.
The project, identified as State Transportation Improvement Plan I-4409, would include the construction of two roundabouts where Blue Ridge Road and N.C. 9 meet. An interchange was planned to allow tractor-trailers and other large commercials vehicles to bypass downtown traffic.
“It will help ease the congestion through town, and that worked in favor of getting the interchange funded,” then-Alderman Larry Harris said at the project’s 2019 unveiling.
North of I-40, Blue Ridge Road to U.S. 70 will be widened to three lanes in addition to the replacement of the bridge that crosses the Swannanoa River.
Planning for the Blue Ridge Road interchange started in 2000 with design evaluation. Additional project plans were added to the DOT Transportation Improvement Plan for 2004-10.
The NCDOT later unveiled three designs to the town on Dec. 13, 2018. The Board of Aldermen voted in favor of a design that featured roundabouts north and south of the overpass.
A northern roundabout would connect Veterans Park Drive and the entrance of the Black Mountain Commerce Park to Blue Ridge Road and the westbound ramp. A separate roundabout south of I-40 would connect Access Road, Blue Ridge Road and the eastbound ramp.
Development of Blue Ridge Road
With changes coming for Blue Ridge Road, the town had provided input for the future of the surrounding area in a March 2019 meeting. The small area plan is projected to unravel over the course of 10-20 years.
Black Mountain recognizes the interchange as a “future growth area” while “exploring independent land use and transportation opportunities along Blue Ridge Road,” the town’s website says. Alternative access to the area will “encourage more commercial and industrial activity in the western portions” of the town.
Residents voted on a collective vision for the area, outlined in the town’s October 2019 plan, saying that they would prefer a plan that “will empower and assist residents in planning for growth” while maintaining a community “that embraces the mountain setting, heritage and culture.”
Feedback also included increased road safety and slower speed limits, accessible sidewalks and crosswalks and the addition of turn lanes at high-traffic intersections.