Main route of the Interstate Highway System
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Interstate 26 (I-26) is a nominally east–west (but physically more northwest-southeast) main route of the Interstate Highway System in the Southeastern United States. I-26 runs from the junction of U.S. Route 11W and U.S. Route 23 in Kingsport, Tennessee, generally southeastward to U.S. Route 17 in Charleston, South Carolina. The portion from Mars Hill, North Carolina, east (compass south) to Interstate 240 in Asheville, North Carolina, has signs indicating FUTURE I-26 because the highway does not yet meet all of the Interstate Highway standards. A short realignment as an improvement in the expressway is also planned in Asheville.
Prior to August 5, 2003, the highway's northwestern terminus was at Interstate 40 on the southwestern side of Asheville, where the highway continued on to make a loop around downtown as Interstate 240. In 2003, it was decided to extend the expressway northwest of Asheville into Tennessee. Next, the final section of the freeway in North Carolina, from Mars Hill north to the Tennessee state line, replaced the old two-lane highway U.S. Route-23. I-26 was extended into Tennessee via the US 23 freeway, taking over approximately one-half of the former Interstate 181 from U.S. Route 321 in Johnson City, to the Interstate 81 interchange southeast of Kingsport, Tennessee. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) initially ruled against an extension of Interstate 26 (as the number) along the remainder of I-181 to Kingsport, since that would give a main route Interstate Highway (I-26) a so-called "stub end", not connecting to any other Interstate highway, to an international border, or to a seacoast. The numerical extension was in 2005 enacted by the effect of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, signed into law on August 10, 2005. Thus, the I-26 designation extends to Kingsport, and it ends about to two miles (three kilometers) south of the Virginia state line, while the freeway itself continues to the state line as US 23.
Northwards from Kingsport, US-23 continues north to Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Corridor B of the Appalachian Development Highway System, and beyond to Columbus, as the Corridor C. In conjunction with the Columbus-Toledo, Ohio corridor formed by Interstate 75, U.S. 23, and State Route 15, I-26 forms part of a mostly high-speed four-or-more-lane highway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast at Charleston, South Carolina. There are no plans for further official Interstate 26 extensions into Virginia, Kentucky, or beyond.
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