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Travel alert: I-40 bridge construction starts this weekend near TN-NC line, expected to take at least 6 months

A new bridge will be built in NC near the TN line, prompting traffic to be diverted at an interstate exit. Alternate routes are suggested in the area.

If you're heading to North Carolina this weekend on Interstate 40, you might want to think about picking an alternate route.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is set to start work Saturday on a bridge project in Haywood County in the gorge near the Tennessee line, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation's area spokesman Mark Nagi.

It's expected to take at least six months.

All traffic coming from and going into North Carolina will be diverted off the highway and onto ramps around the bridge at Exit 7 at Harmon Den Road.

The detours could cause backups of more than 8 miles, according to NCDOT.

The detours likely will remain in place until at least May "while crews remove and replace the deteriorating structure," according to NCDOT.

TDOT urges drivers to think about alternate routes to and from North Carolina, such as Interstate 26 and Interstate 81 to avoid the work zone.

Besides building a new bridge, NC authorities are ensuring wildlife have their own paths to get from one side of the interstate to the other. 

Two paths will be built under the bridge on each side of Cold Springs Creek to help animals migrate while avoiding vehicle traffic.

"A 9-foot-tall fence will guide animals to the trails away from traffic and under the bridge," according to NCDOT.

The department also is looking at using "wildlife guards" to block animals such as deer from going up the ramps.

"These measures will hopefully encourage wildlife to cross under the bridge and reduce the possibility of animal accidents," the department said in a notice on its website.