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Traffic delays expected for Interstate 40 bridge replacement

November 13, 2021 GMT

HARMON DEN, N.C. (AP) — A curvy stretch of Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge in North Carolina will become a little more circuitous and take more time to navigate as a bridge is replaced, state officials said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation says in a news release that one lane will be closed in each direction approaching Exit 7 starting Saturday. Crews are replacing the 56-year-old bridge on I-40 over Harmon Den Road and Cold Springs Creek in Haywood County, the department said. The new bridge will include two wildlife paths under the bridge.

NCDOT and Tennessee transportation officials are considering options for dealing with delays, including a zipper-merge on I-40, or take I-26 and I-81, which adds 45 minutes to a typical commute between Asheville and the I-40/I-81 interchange.

A zipper merge occurs in a construction zone when motorists use both lanes of traffic until reaching the merge area and then alternate in “zipper” fashion into the open lane.

Plans for the new bridge include a path to help wildlife move from one side of the interstate to the other without encountering traffic and a 9-foot fence to funnel animals under the bridge.

The project is scheduled for completion in May 2024.