The Tar Heel state continues to lead the nation in proposing and developing new Interstate corridors. Additions approved by AASHTO in 2016 alone designated Interstates 42, 87 and 587. These join ongoing progress or long range plans for Interstates 73, 274, 285, 785, 295, 795, etc. We drove across North Carolina last month and checked out progress on a number of projects:
Interstate 42 will run east from I-40 at Garner (outside Raleigh) to Morehead City. The new route will supplant U.S. 70 along freeways around Clayton, Selma, Goldsboro and New Bern among other locations.
The newest section of Future Interstate 42 is the U.S. 70 Bypass to the north of Goldsboro. The 20 mile freeway was constructed over an eight year period at a cost of $232 million. The final 12.5 mile section opened to traffic on May 27, 2016.1 The new roadway ends at La Grange, midway between Goldsboro and Kinston. East of Kinston at Dover, another section of freeway takes U.S. 70 to U.S. 17 and the city of New Bern. A 12-mile bypass is currently proposed to take U.S. 70 south of Kinston between the adjacent stretches of freeway. The estimated $181 million project is currently unfunded.
Interstate 87 will replace what was previously signed in 2013 as both I-495 and Future I-495, between I-440 in Raleigh and I-95 outside Rocky Mount. The I-87 proposal extends east along the U.S. 64 freeway to Tarboro and Williamston, with future construction to supplement U.S. 17 bypasses around Windsor and Elizabeth City northward to the Virginia state line at Hampton Roads.
U.S. 64 east from I-540 to I-95 remains below Interstate standards due to a lack of full shoulders. The same issue must be addressed on the Future I-587 corridor.
I-587 is the most recent Interstate entry for North Carolina, with approval by FHWA just in November 2016. Incorporated in the Quad-East Interstate plan (I-87, I-795 extension, new NC 11) meant to link the eastern North Carolina cities of Greenville, Kinston, Goldsboro and Wilson, Interstate 587 will overlay the current U.S. 264 freeway from U.S. 64 at Zebulon to the Greenville bypass.
Farm equipment is prohibited from using Interstate highways due to safety concerns. Because of this restriction, the Interstate 555 corridor along U.S. 63 in northeast Arkansas could not be signed due to a short segment where U.S. 63 provided the only access to adjoining farm fields. Arkansas legislators came up with a solution for I-555 by inserting vehicle exemption language into the FAST Act highway bill authorized in December 2015. This lifted the restriction of farm vehicles from the stretch through Sunken Lands and allowed AHTD to proceed with signing the route as a full Interstate. Will a similar exemption be needed for Future I-587 within the Wilson vicinity?
Other corridors continue to advance across the state. Construction is underway along the newest section of Interstate 74 in Winston-Salem, a short arc north from U.S. 421 / Business Loop I-40 to U.S. 158 west of Kernersville. Since this section of the Winston-Salem Beltway will not directly tie into existing I-74 to the south, it will be designated as North Carolina 74 upon completion.
The western half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway moved forward with a draft transportation-spending plan released by NCDOT on January 4, 2017. The action sets cost estimates and a tentative time table for most of the western segments for the first time. The proposed transportation plan schedules most of the money for the beltway for 2027 for right of way acquisition, utility work and initial construction. Segment A work however extends beyond 2027 and the scope of the current plan.2
The Greensboro Urban Loop, Interstate 840, remains incomplete. The belt route however will lengthen as ongoing construction extends the west leg north to U.S. 220 and the east leg from U.S. 70 north to U.S. 29.3
Work on the NC 68 / US 220 connector was recently moved up to a spring 2017 completion. When that section of freeway opens, Interstate 73 will be fully recognized along the Greensboro Urban Loop.
The eastern section will be dually posted as Interstate 785 upon completion, part of the long proposed corridor linking Greensboro with Danville. Adjacent construction (Project U-2525B) through December 2018 upgrades a short stretch of U.S. 29 leading northeast from I-840 for the eventual I-785 extension. The $111.7 million, 5.5 mile section with I-840 is 75% complete as of the end of 2016.3
Within Durham, construction got underway in February 2015 involving a new freeway connection between North Carolina 147 (Durham Freeway) and the U.S. 70 bypass freeway between Miami Boulevard and Interstate 85. Named the East End Connector and slated for completion in January 2020, the freeway link will be designated Interstate 885, as will U.S. 70 to the north and NC 147 to the south.
Construction remains planned for an extension of Triangle Expressway (NC 540 Toll) south and east along the South Wake Expressway. We’ll cover the TriEx more in a later post.