Interstate 85 constitutes a heavily traveled freeway through most of North Carolina. Entering the state from Upstate South Carolina, I-85 runs east from Kings Mountain to Gastonia and into the city of Charlotte. I-485 provides a bypass to the north while I-85 passes north of Downtown.

Turning northeast along a six to eight lane freeway, I-85 joins Charlotte with Concord, Kannapolis and Salisbury. A business loop for I-85 separated from the Interstate 85 at Lexington, joining U.S. 29/70 northeast into Thomasville and High Point while I-85 bypassed to the east. The loop is being retired from 2020 onward.

Continuing into the Piedmont Triad area, Interstate 85 enters the city of Greensboro along the southeastern quadrant of the freeway loop formed with I-73, I-840 and I-785. Interstate 40 runs across the city south of Downtown, combining with I-85 to the east.

I-40/85 overlap for 30.9 miles along an eight lane freeway to Burlington, Mebane and Hillsborough. They split west of Durham, with I-40 heading southeast to Chapel Hill and Raleigh and I-85 staying eastward into central Durham. Beyond the Bull City, Interstate 85 becomes more rural, reducing to four lanes and angling northeast to Oxford, Henderson and southeastern Virginia.

Interstate 85 North Carolina Guides

I-85/US 15 south at US 70/East End Connector - Durham, NC

Underway between 1999 and February 12, 2008, $210 million in construction widened Interstate 85 through Durham between 1999 and February 12, 2008 in three separate projects. Work involved improvements to the interchange (Exit 178) with U.S. 70 and separate widening and interchange upgrades along I-85 from U.S. 70 west to Broad Street and between Broad Street and U.S. 15/501.1,2

The wye interchange joining U.S. 70 west with I-85 south at Exit 178 was reconstructed as part of a $210 million widening project along I-85 west to U.S. 15-501 south. This included constructing new flyovers at Exit 178, which added eastbound access to U.S. 70 from I-85 south. All freeway lanes were opened to traffic in September 2006,2 but work involving side roads, ramps and landscaping continued to a ribbon cutting ceremony held on February 12, 2008.2

Dating back to 1955, the narrow four-lane bridge carrying Interstate 85 across the Yadkin River was replaced as part of a $201.5-million project that included rebuilding the interchange with NC 150. The northbound bridge opened on May 5 2012, followed by the new southbound span by March 9, 2013. Named the Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge, the new twin spans included a 1.5 mile realignment of I-85 to the east of the original crossing. Interstate 85 accommodates four lanes per direction with 12 foot shoulders.4 Debate over the replacement of this bridge initially focused on construction of a toll bridge to pay for its cost. Discussion involved electronic toll collection at a rate as high as $4 per passenger vehicle.

Interstate 85 scenes
Looking west at Interstate 85 from the flyover linking I-85 north with I-485 north. 06/01/07
I-85/U.S. 29 shield assembly posted along Dixon School Road north at Exit 5. U.S. 29 merges onto I-85 nearby at Exit 4 for a six-mile overlap to Kings Mountain. 07/24/04
State named shields that were posted on Edgewood Road north at the Bessemer City interchange (Exit 13). Reconstruction of the freeway here between 1999 and 2001 resulted in the repaving of the concrete ramps and replacement of signage. 12/08/99
3 photos
3 photos
3 photos
Leaving the passenger terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Josh Birmingham Parkway splits into ramps for the parkway east along SR 1490 to Billy Graham Parkway and north to Little Rock Road for I-85. 01/17/19
Leaving CLT Airport northbound, Josh Birmingham Parkway intersects U.S. 29/74 (Wilkinson Boulevard). U.S. 29/74 parallel I-85 west to Interstate 485 and east to Uptown Charlotte. 01/17/19
Josh Birmingham Parkway becomes Little Rock Road (SR 1641) north from Scott Futrell Drive (SR 1981) to the exchange with Interstate 85. 01/17/19
A single point urban interchange joins Little Rock Road (SR 1641) with Interstate 85 at Exit 32. 01/17/19
Groometown Road travels south from Grandover Parkway over I-85/U.S. 29-70 to the northbound freeway on-ramp. 06/22/05
Interstate 85 splits with Business Loop I-85/U.S. 29-70 just north of Groometown Road. U.S. 29 continues through central Greensboro while I-85 overlaps with U.S. 421 on a bypass to the southeast. 06/22/05
The northbound on-ramp from Groometown Road provides access to U.S. 29 north into Greensboro, I-85 north to Burlington and Durham, I-73/U.S. 421 north to Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) and Winston-Salem, I-73/U.S. 220 south to Asheboro, and U.S. 421 south to Siler City. 06/22/05
2 photos
2 photos
The Groometown Road on-ramp split into Business Loop I-85 north and a temporary ramp to I-85 north. The stub is now a part of ramps to both I-73 north and I-73 south / I-85 north via a c/d roadway. 06/22/05
2 photos
2 photos
Merging onto Interstate 85 north / U.S. 421 south along the temporary on-ramp from Groometown Road. A flyover under construction here opened on February 21, 2008 for I-73/U.S. 421 south. 06/22/05
Gate One Road curves southeast by several mobile home parks in south Butner to meet Interstate 85 opposite U.S. 15 north to Creedmoor. 07/09/10
I-85/U.S. 15 combine for 7.3 miles southwest to the U.S. 70 freeway in Durham. 07/09/10
Drivers turn onto U.S. 15 south for Interstate 85 south from Gate One Road. U.S. 15 continues the roadway northeast five miles to Creedmoor. U.S. 15 and I-85 reconvene at Oxford in 16 miles. 07/09/10
Interstate 85 shield posted on Ruin Creek Road northbound at Graham Avenue. 06/22/05
A diamond interchange joins Ruin Creek Road with Interstate 85 near Maria Parham Hospital in west Henderson. All of the Interstate shields at Exit 212 included the state name in 2005. 06/22/05

  1. "Roadwork Coming to End - Traffic relief in sight as I-85 widening winds down." The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), January 30, 2006.
  2. "Overbudgeted I-85 Project Officially Opens." WRAL (Raleigh, NC). February 12, 2008.
  3. "The End of the Road - I-85 project set to be complete within 2 weeks." The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), September 7, 2006.
  4. "New Yadkin River bridge opens - All four lanes on the I- 85 southbound bridge should be available Saturday." Charlotte Observer (NC), March 9, 2013.

Photo Credits:

12/08/99, 07/24/04, 06/22/05, 06/01/07, 07/09/10, 01/17/19 by AARoads

Connect with:
Interstate 40
Interstate 73
Interstate 74
Interstate 77
Interstate 277
Interstate 485 - Charlotte Beltway
Interstate 785
Interstate 840 - Greensboro Urban Loop
Highway 147 - Triangle Experssway / Durham Freeway

Page Updated 08-10-2020.

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