I-40 West lanes into Tennessee to be closed five days this month for bridge repair

North Carolina’s heavily traveled mountain corridor into Tennessee — westbound Interstate 40 — will be closed for up to five days this month while contractors rebuild a bridge in the Pigeon River Gorge.

The problem for travelers will be not only that westbound lanes will be closed, but also that it’s not yet known which days they will be closed. Nearly 30,000 vehicles a day pass through that section, according to state data.

Some lanes of I-40 in the area were closed for more than two months earlier this year to stabilize a rock slide that was caused by heavy rain.

Emergency work is now needed to repair fast-deteriorating concrete on the Buckeye Bridge in Haywood County, the N.C. Department of Transportation said Wednesday. The bridge crosses Jonathan Creek and White Oak Road.

The work needs to be done before winter, when the 53-year-old bridge would further deteriorate, DOT said. Demolition crews will remove old concrete and pour new material to complete the repair.

But concrete can only be poured when temperatures are above 50 degrees, and the department can’t predict when the weather will cooperate. The repair contract calls for work to be completed by Nov. 22.

Transportation officials will announce lane closure dates at least 24 hours in advance. Notices will be posted on digital message boards as far away as I-40 in Iredell County and I-26 in Polk and Madison counties. Messages will also be posted on I-26 in South Carolina and Tennessee.

Westbound lanes will be closed from the U.S. 276 interchange to the Tennessee line. Here’s a detour for westbound drivers: Take I-40 to Exit 53B (I-240 West) to Exit 4A (I-26 West) and follow it for 74 miles, into Tennessee. Take Exit 8A onto I-81 South and go 57 miles to I-40 near Dandridge, Tenn.

The detour will add about 45 minutes more than the I-40 route from Asheville through the Pigeon River Gorge, DOT said.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.