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.

Future I-42 end and begin signs were installed in 2016 at the trumpet interchange with Interstate 40 west of Clayton. Photo taken 12/15/16.

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.

The Interstate standard portion of Interstate 495 (Future I-87) ends at I-540 along the 2005-opened Knightdale bypass for U.S. 64 & 264. Photo taken 12/15/16.

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.

In addition to the lack of shoulders, the U.S. 264 freeway east from Bailey may be used by slow moving farm equipment. This sign suggests that no such restriction exists along the forthcoming shared alignment with I-795. Photo taken 12/15/16.

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.

Business Loop I-40 & U.S. 421 east at the future directional cloverleaf interchange with the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway. Work on Section B of the 34-mile loop started in December 2014.

Project U-2579B extends north from Business Loop I-40 & U.S. 421 to U.S. 158 (Reidsville Road) near Walkertown. Work on Section B continues to April 2019.

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

A concealed overhead will direct motorists onto I-840 east from Bryan Boulevard west. Photo taken 12/15/16

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.

A directional ramp passes overhead, carrying the future mainline of I-73 north from I-840 west. Pavement is laid below for the next section of I-840 east, which is expected to open by late 2017 or early 2018.

The future I-840 mainline leads north from Bryan Boulevard toward the Fleming Road overpass.

Construction along the $123 million northwest segment of the Greensboro Urban Loop to U.S. 220 ties into Project U-2524D. Work east from Battleground Avenue to Lawndale Drive started in October 2016.

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

Base pavement in place for Interstates 785 & 840 north from the temporary freeway end at U.S. 70. Photo taken 12/15/16.

New signs posted along Interstate 40 east and the ending Business Loop I-85 now show Interstate 785.

The I-785 corridor was first proposed to AASHTO in 1997. Future corridor signs were posted along U.S. 29 by 2002, but no section has yet to be posted as a fully recognized Interstate highway. Photo taken 12/15/16.

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.

The travel lanes of NC 147 (Durham Freeway) south narrow across a temporary bridge at the site of the future semi-directional T interchange with the East End Connector. Photo taken 12/15/16.

The flyover that will eventually lead motorists north onto the East End Connector to U.S. 70 takes shape along NC 147 (Durham Freeway) south. Photo taken 12/15/16.

Work broke ground on the 3.9 mile East End Connector project on April 22, 2015. The $142 million project was first proposed in 1950. Photo taken 12/15/16.

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.


  1. U.S. 70 Goldsboro bypass opens.WITN, July 27, 2016.
  2. Western beltway leaps up on road list.Winston-Salem Journal, January 5, 2017.
  3. A good year for area roadwork, but more to come.Greensboro News & Record, December 28, 2016.