Tri-cities of Tennessee Road Map - AARoads

On August 5, 2003, Interstate 26 saw extension from the city of Asheville, North Carolina to the Tri-Cities region of northeastern Tennessee. The lengthening overtook U.S. 23 and friends from Asheville northward to Mars Hill, North Carolina. From there a new alignment travels west of existing U.S. 23 to the Tennessee state line at Sams Gap. U.S. 23 rejoins Interstate 26 to the north with both sharing pavement northward to Erwin. At Erwin U.S. 19W ties in for an overlap through Johnson City to U.S. 11E. The extension of Interstate 26 overtook the original Interstate 181 routing from U.S. 321 northward initially to Interstate 81. On August 5, 2005, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved a second extension of Interstate 26 northward over the final nine mile segment of Interstate 181. This extends Interstate 26, 55 miles from the state line northward through Kingsport toward the Virginia state line.

The extension of Interstate 26 beyond Interstate 81 was sought by the city of Kingsport. An earlier proposal would have renumbered Interstate 181 into Interstate 126, but that was turned down in June of 2003. By March of 2007, all references to Interstate 181 were replaced in eastern Tennessee. The sign changes accompany a complete renumbering of the freeway interchanges to a mile based system starting at the western (northern) terminus. Since technically Interstate 26 travels east/west, milepost zero lies at the U.S. 11W interchange at Kingsport.

Interstate 26 Tennessee Highway Guides

When Interstate 26 replaced Interstate 81, exit numbers were renumbered to count from north to south. This table compares the two sets:

I-26 Exit Number U.S. 23 Exit Number Intersecting Road
1 55 U.S. 11W (Stone Drive)
3 52 Meadow View Parkway
51A Tennessee 93 South
4B 51B Tennessee 93 North (Wilcox Dr)
6 49 Tennessee Secondary 347 (Rock Spring Road)
8B 46A Interstate 81 North Bristol
8A 46B Interstate 81 South Knoxville
10 45 Eastern Star Road
13 42 Tennessee Secondary 75 Gray (Bobby Hicks Highway)
17 38 Tennessee Secondary 354 Boones Creek
19 36 Tennessee 381 (State of Franklin Rd )
U.S. 11E & 19W (North Roan Street)
22 33 Tennessee Secondary 400 (Unaka / Watauga Avenues)
23 32 Tennessee Secondary 91 (Market Street)
24 31 U.S. 321 Elizabethton
27 28 Tennessee Secondary 359 (N Okalona Road)
32 23 Tennessee Secondary 173 (Unicoi Road)
34 21 Tinker Road
36 19 Main Street Erwin
37 18 Tennessee 81 / Tennessee Secondary 107 Erwin-Jonesborough
40 15 Jackson-Love Highway
43 12 U.S. 19W / Tennessee Secondary 352 (Temple Hill Road)
46 9 Clear Branch Road
50 5 Flag Pond Road

Interstate 26 scenes
Boones Creek Road (SSR 354) eastbound at the westbound Interstate 26 & U.S. 23 northbound on-ramp (Exit 17). Rather than replacing the Interstate 181 shield initially, TDOT placed a cutout Interstate 26 shield above. Several Interstate 181 shields south of Interstate 81 remained as of late August 2003, but all were removed by March 2007. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Boones Creek Road westbound at the Interstate 26 eastbound & U.S. 23 southbound on-ramp. The original Interstate 181 shield was simply replaced with an Interstate 26 shield. Since Interstate 181 was signed north-south, and Interstate 26 is east-west, an East placard was attached to the guide sign above. Photo taken 08/23/03.

Photo Credits:

08/23/03 by AARoads and Justin Cozart

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Page Updated 10-22-2011.