It's those images like the dirt road or the old barn or the tobacco field. Those are the things that I see that are going to be gone. And I think they're going to be gone whether the road comes or not. It's just a matter of time. I see the road not so much as its own problem; it's just sort of a symptom of development and growth in general that was going to find Madison County sooner or later anyway.
For two hundred years the rugged terrain of western North Carolina slowed development in Madison County, thus preserving a unique regional culture. However, technological advancements have now reached a point that even mountains can be hurdled. On August 5, 2003 the final section of I-26 was completed, running from the Tennessee state line to Mars Hill, Madison County. Now an uninterrupted high-speed highway, I-26 is part of the main route northwest-southeast from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast.
Development did not come to the mountains all at once, but each change presented residents with new challenges for finding balance between the march of time and the desire to preserve tradition. The interstate, preceded by improved mountain roads and rail lines, was yet one more avenue through which change could travel. Many Madison County residents feared that a culture developed inside relative isolation might disintegrate when that isolation was entirely removed.