HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. — One less traffic jam is in the way of you and wherever you're driving for Thanksgiving. 

As of Nov. 21, drivers can drive down I-40 West through to the Pigeon River Gorge.

The interstate was closed between mile marker 20 and 15 starting Monday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. It reopened on Thursday, Nov. 21, one day ahead of schedule. Crews said they estimated it would be closed for up to five days as they repaired concrete on the bridge over Jonathan Creek and White Oak Road.

"We worried that the work could take up to five days to complete, but we’re happy it took a lot less time,” Nathan Tanner, a Division 14 resident engineer, said in a press release. “Crews removed the damaged concrete — and there wasn’t as much as there could have been — and poured a new latex concrete which will give drivers a safer and smoother ride across the bridge.”

The detour sent travelers headed into Tennessee up I-26 in Asheville then through I-81 South until they rejoined I-40 West. It added roughly 45 minutes more to the drive compared to the normal route through the gorge.

According to N.C. Department of Transportation officials, the contractor, Buckeye Bridge of Canton, completed the emergency repair for $463,500 in less than three days. The contract also included work on the eastbound lanes.

“This work had to be done, and we’re glad crews completed the job in such a timely manner,” Tanner said. “I know some folks didn’t appreciate the long detour, but we’d all much rather have a bridge that is safe for cars and trucks.”

The eastbound lanes to Asheville remained open as repairs were made.