Interstate 85 in North Carolina
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length:||234.6 mi (377.6 km)|
|Existed:||1958 – present|
|South end:||I‑85 at the SC line near Blacksburg, SC|
| I‑485 in Charlotte (twice)
I‑77 / US 21 in Charlotte
I‑85 Bus. / US 29 / US 52 / US 70 near Lexington
I‑74 / US 311 near Archdale
I‑73 / US 421 in Greensboro
I‑40 near McLeansville
US 1 in Henderson
|North end:||I‑85 at the VA line near Bracey, VA|
|Counties:||Cleveland, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Davidson, Randolph, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville, Vance, Warren|
In the U.S. state of North Carolina, Interstate 85 (I-85) scales the state for 234.6 miles (377.6 km) from the South Carolina border to the Virginia border. As the second-longest interstate in the state (behind Interstate 40), it provides an important link between the cities of Atlanta, Greenville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C..
Near Kings Mountain, I-85 turns from a northeast trajectory to an eastward one and goes through Gastonia, where it widens from four to six lanes. It stays at six lanes until it reaches Belmont, where the highway widens again to eight lanes.
The highway crosses the Catawba River just before entering Charlotte. It passes north of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and goes by a number of retail centers before turning northeastward again just west of Uptown Charlotte. The highway bypasses the downtown area, but several exits do provide access to the area. A partial wrong-way interchange exists at the exit with Interstate 77 north of Uptown.
The highway actually lies within the city limits of Charlotte for most of its route through Mecklenburg County. As a result, none of the exit signs list "Charlotte" as a destination for the intersecting routes. This can be confusing to motorists not familiar with the region, who often don't realize that they are actually within the city limits of Charlotte when searching for an exit that will take them to Bank of America Stadium, Time Warner Cable Arena, or other destinations in Uptown. The route through Charlotte traverses a heavily commercialized section in the northern portion of the city that is more suburban than urban in character, with light industry such as truck terminals, warehouses, small manufacturing facilities, and small office parks lining the highway. It also passes by the University City area and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
After Charlotte, I-85 continues northeastward into Cabarrus County, passing through the cities of Concord and Kannapolis. It drops from eight to four lanes between exit 55 (near Concord and Huntersville) and exit 68 near the Rowan County town of China Grove, at which point it increases to eight lanes again.
Approximately 70 miles (110 km) northeast of the Charlotte area is the Triad area, anchored by the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point. I-85 bypasses High Point and also largely bypasses Greensboro. Up until February 2004, I-85 went through the heart of Greensboro and joined Interstate 40 near downtown. Today, I-85 is routed along the Greensboro Urban Loop and meets I-40 east of downtown. Its former route is now known as Business 85.
Interstates 85 and 40 remain joined as they continue eastward to the Triangle region, anchored by the cities of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. West of Durham near Hillsborough, the two highways split, with I-40 heading southeast through Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh while I-85 continues eastward through Durham, then northeastward as it exits the city. It takes on a more suburban character once it leaves Durham, bypassing Oxford and Henderson before crossing into Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
Though the highway is commonly known as "Interstate 85" or "I-85" throughout the state, the highway does have other known names it uses locally in areas.
- Blue Star Memorial Highway – official North Carolina honorary name of Interstate 85 throughout the state (approved: May 5, 1967).
- Jeff Gordon Expressway – official North Carolina name of I-85 from Charlotte city limit to the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus county line in Northeast Mecklenburg County (1.6 miles (2.6 km)). It is named in honor of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon (dedicated May 25, 2012).
- Sam Hunt Freeway – official North Carolina name of I-85/I-40 from the Guilford County line to one mile east of NC 54 in Graham (approved: September 5, 1997).
- Senator Marshall Arthur Rauch Highway – official North Carolina name of Interstate 85 through Gaston County (approved: October 3, 1997)
- William James Pharr Bridge – official North Carolina name of Bridge over South Fork River on Interstate 85 in Gaston County (approved: August 5, 1994).
- Cameron Morrison Bridge – official North Carolina name of Bridge over Catawba River on Interstate 85 between Gaston and Mecklenburg counties (approved: March 11, 1983). It is named in honor of Cameron A. Morrison, known as the Good Roads Governor.
Parts of Interstate 85 were already constructed before federal aid was available in the 1950s, as the state had been constructing sections of the Interstate Highway System since 1949. The Lexington Bypass north of Lexington - which at the time was signed U.S. 29 and U.S. 70 - is now a part of Business I-85.[dead link]
One planned road was the Salisbury bypass, 15 miles (24 km) long with a $1 million 880-foot (270 m) twin-span bridge over the Yadkin River. Construction on the bridge started in 1955 (this date is shown on a plaque, and most sources have used the date), but the lanes were not as wide as federal standards required, and the road had a sharp curve north of the bridge. Both of these characteristics saved money.
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided for 90 percent federal funding of highways that would become part of the Interstate Highway System, and the N.C. Highway Commission used the funds to build the rest of the highway, which opened as I-85 in 1958. The bridge, finished a year earlier, was "grandfathered" despite not meeting standards. Also designated as I-85 was the bypass around Charlotte.
Another section of I-85 opened to traffic on September 9, 1958 when an 11.3-mile (18.2 km) stretch in Mecklenburg County was opened.
The year 1960 saw several sections of the highway open to traffic:
- An 18.3-mile (29.5 km) section of Interstate 85 between Henderson and the Virginia border as well as a 46-mile (74 km) section between Greensboro and western Durham opened to traffic.
- A 15.4-mile portion of U.S. 29/U.S. 70 between Salisbury and Greensboro was incorporated into I-85 when further grade separations and access control was completed
- A 14-mile (23 km) segment of I-85 known as the "Charlotte Bypass" in Charlotte.
- A 13.8-mile (22.2 km) segment between Greensboro and Whisett.
By 1965, I-85 from the South Carolina border to Charlotte was complete, while it took until 1970 for the section between Charlotte and Durham to be completed. However, the "Temporary 85" designation would remain on the segment between Lexington and Greensboro until 1984 because there were too many access roads. That year, a new six-lane section opened, resulting in the "Temporary 85" designation to be dropped.
Since its completion, many widening projects have been undertaken on I-85, particularly along the stretch of highway between Gastonia and Durham. By 1988, widening I-85 to six lanes from Greensboro to Burlington was being considered. The plan was later changed to eight lanes. The $175 million project began in 1989. With the opening of a 2.3-mile (3.7 km) section in Alamance County on November 23, 1994, 21 miles (34 km) of I-85/I-40 were eight lanes. An additional 14 miles (23 km) were to be ready by 1996, giving the interstate eight lanes all the way to where I-40 turned southward at Hillsborough.
In addition, Interstate 85 was relocated in 2004, south of Greensboro, forming part of the Greensboro Urban Loop, allowing through traffic to bypass that city's downtown area. Between 2004 and 2008, I-85 was widened to eight lanes around Salisbury.
The I-85 Corridor Improvement Project, located in Rowan County and Davidson County, was a two-phase project to replace the narrow bridge over the Yadkin River and widen the freeway from four to eight lanes. In the first phase, all traffic from the old bridge moved to a new $201 million bridge in August 2012. On March 9, 2013, all eight lanes of the I-85 bridge opened to the public.  The project finished eight months ahead of schedule and $44 million under budget.
In April 2014, the N.C. Department of Transportation announced plans to widen I-85 from four to eight lanes from north of N.C. 73 (Exit 55) to north of Lane Street (Exit 63) near the Cabarrus-Rowan county border. Work could begin in less than a year. Construction is scheduled to be completed by December 2017. When finished, that will leave I-85 in North Carolina with at least six lanes of highway between Exits 10 (US 29 north / US 74 – Kings Mountain, Shelby) and 164 (I-40 in Hillsborough), except for approximately five miles from Exit 63 to Exit 68 (US 29 / NC 152 – China Grove, Rockwell).
Another construction project that is part of the I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop, located in Mecklenburg County, will reconstruct the I-485 interchange (exit 48) to a fully directional interchange and widen the freeway from 6-lanes to 8-lanes from I-485 to Bruton Smith Boulevard/Concord Mills Boulevard. Currently, the entire project is expected to be completed in 2015 and at budget.
Auxiliary routes in North Carolina
|Interstate 85 Business||Lexington, High Point, and Greensboro||Business loop||Expressway grade from Lexington-High Point, freeway grade in Greensboro|
|Interstate 285||Winston-Salem||Connector||Future, construction slated to begin in 2014|
|Interstate 485||Charlotte||Beltway||Mostly completed beltway|
|Interstate 785||Greensboro and Danville||Spur||Currently a 2.21-mile (3.56 km) stub in eastern Guilford County; to be extended|
|Cleveland||State line||0.0||0.0||I‑85 south – Spartanburg|
|1.8||2.9||2||NC 216 – Kings Mountain National Military Park|
|3.6||5.8||4||US 29 south||South end of US 29 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|4.8||7.7||5||Dixon School Road|
|Kings Mountain||7.6||12.2||8||NC 161 – Kings Mountain|
|Gaston||10.0||16.1||10||US 29 north / US 74 – Kings Mountain, Shelby||North end of US 29 overlap; signed as exits 10A (north/east) and 10B (west)|
|Bessemer City||12.8||20.6||13||Edgewood Road – Bessemer City|
|Gastonia||14.5||23.3||14||NC 274 – East Bessemer City, West Gastonia|
|17.0||27.4||17||US 321 – Gastonia, Lincolnton|
|19.0||30.6||19||NC 7 – East Gastonia|
|19.7||31.7||20||NC 279 (New Hope Road) – Dallas|
|20.6||33.2||21||Cox Road – Ranlo|
|Lowell||22.3||35.9||22||Main Street – Cramerton, Lowell|
|23.2||37.3||23||NC 7 – Lowell, McAdenville|
|Belmont||25.7||41.4||26||Belmont–Mount Holly Road – Belmont, Mount Holly||To Belmont Abbey College|
|26.9||43.3||27||NC 273 – Belmont, Mount Holly|
|Mecklenburg||29.4||47.3||29||Sam Wilson Road||To U.S. National Whitewater Center|
|30.3||48.8||30||I‑485 to I‑77 – Pineville, Statesville||Signed southbound as exits 30B (north) and 30A (south)|
|Charlotte||32.0||51.5||32||Little Rock Road|
|33.2||53.4||33||Billy Graham Parkway – Charlotte/Douglas International Airport|
|34.7||55.8||34||NC 27 (Freedom Drive) / Tuckaseegee Road|
|36.2||58.3||36||NC 16 (Brookshire Boulevard) to US 74 east – Downtown Charlotte|
|37.8||60.8||37||Beatties Ford Road – Johnson C. Smith University|
|38.2||61.5||38||I‑77 / US 21 – Statesville, Columbia|
|38.8||62.4||39||Statesville Avenue / Statesville Road|
|41.3||66.5||41||Sugar Creek Road|
|42.3||68.1||42||To US 29 to NC 49 (North Tryon Street)||Northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|43.0||69.2||43||To NC 49 / University City Boulevard||To Ikea Boulevard|
|44.5||71.6||45||NC 24 (W.T. Harris Boulevard)||Signed as exits 45A (east) and 45B (west)|
|46.2||74.4||46||Mallard Creek Church Road||Signed northbound as exits 46A (east) and 46B (west)|
|47.5||76.4||48||I‑485 south – Rock Hill|
|Cabarrus||Concord||49.2||79.2||49||Bruton Smith Boulevard / Concord Mills Boulevard||To Concord Mills and Charlotte Motor Speedway|
|51.8||83.4||52||Poplar Tent Road|
|53.6||86.3||54||George W. Liles Parkway / Kannapolis Parkway|
|55.0||88.5||55||NC 73 – Concord, Huntersville||To Rowan–Cabarrus CC South Campus; to be converted into a DDI in Summer, 2013|
|58.0||93.3||58||US 29 / US 601 south – Kannapolis, Concord||South end of US 601 overlap|
|Kannapolis||59.9||96.4||60||Dale Earnhardt Boulevard / Copperfield Boulevard|
|62.5||100.6||63||Lane Street – Kannapolis|
|Rowan||China Grove||68.0||109.4||68||US 29 / NC 152 – China Grove, Rockwell|
|72.3||116.4||72||Peach Orchard Road|
|74.5||119.9||75||US 601 north (Jake Alexander Boulevard)||North end of US 601 overlap; to Rowan–Cabarrus CC North Campus|
|76.0||122.3||76||US 52 south (Innes Street) – Albemarle, Salisbury||South end of US 52 overlap; formerly signed as exits 76A (south) and 76B (north)|
|Spencer||79.0||127.1||79||Andrews Street – Spencer, East Spencer|
|80.4||129.4||81||Long Ferry Road – Spencer|
|Yadkin River||82.2||132.3||Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge|
|Davidson||82.7||133.1||82||US 29 south / US 70 west / NC 150 east – Spencer||Permanently closed as of April, 2010|
|83.1||133.7||83||NC 150||Permanently closed as of May, 2013|
|83.4||134.2||84||US 29 south / US 70 west to NC 150 – Spencer||South end of US 29 and west end of US 70 overlap|
|84.4||135.8||85||Clark Road||Permanently closed as of November, 2012|
|87.2||140.3||87||I‑85 Bus. north / US 29 north / US 52 north / US 70 east – Lexington, Winston-Salem||North end of US 29/US 52 and east end of US 70 overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|88.0||141.6||88||NC 47 east to I‑85 Bus. – High Rock Lake, Linwood|
|Lexington||91.1||146.6||91||NC 8 – Lexington, Southmont|
|93.7||150.8||94||Old US 64|
|96.0||154.5||96||US 64 – Asheboro, Lexington|
|103.4||166.4||103||NC 109 – Thomasville|
|Randolph||Trinity||105.5||169.8||106||Finch Farm Road|
|107.5||173.0||108||Hopewell Church Road – Trinity|
|Archdale||111.0||178.6||111||Main Street – Archdale, Downtown High Point|
|Guilford||112.7||181.4||113A||NC 62 – Archdale|
|113.4||182.5||113B-C||I‑74 / US 311 – Asheboro, Winston-Salem||Signed as exits 113B (east) and 113C (west)|
|Greensboro||118.1||190.1||118||I‑85 Bus. south / US 29 south / US 70 west – High Point||South end of I-85 Bus./US 29/US 70 (west) overlap|
|119.5||192.3||119||Groometown Road to Grandover Parkway||Signed as exit 122A southbound|
|120.0||193.1||120A||I‑85 Bus. north / US 29 north / US 70 east – Greensboro||North end of I-85 Bus./US 29/US 70 (east) overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|120.4||193.8||120B||I‑73 north / US 421 north to I‑40 west – Winston-Salem||Signed as exit 121 southbound; north end of US 421 overlap|
|121.7||195.9||122||I‑73 south / US 220 – Asheboro, Greensboro||Southbound exit and northbound entrance; signed as exits 122B (south) and 122C (north)|
|123.7||199.1||124||South Elm–Eugene Street|
|126.0||202.8||126||US 421 south – Sanford||Signed as exits 126A (US 421 South) and 126B (Greensboro); south end of US 421 overlap|
|128.2||206.3||128||Alamance Church Road|
|130.2||209.5||129||Youngs Mill Road|
|132.0||212.4||131||I‑40 west / I‑85 Bus. south to US 70 – Greensboro, Winston-Salem||West end of I-40 overlap; hidden north I-785 and west I-840|
|McLeansville||133.3||214.5||132||Mount Hope Church Road|
|Whitsett||136.3||219.4||135||Rock Creek Dairy Road|
|138.6||223.1||138||NC 61 – Gibsonville|
|Alamance||Burlington||141.5||227.7||140||University Drive – Elon||To Elon University|
|142.5||229.3||141||Huffman Mill Road|
|144.2||232.1||143||NC 62 – Downtown Burlington, Alamance|
|146.3||235.4||145||NC 49 – Downtown Burlington, Liberty|
|Graham||148.0||238.2||147||NC 87 – Graham, Pittsboro|
|149.0||239.8||148||NC 54 – Chapel Hill, Carrboro|
|Haw River||150.8||242.7||150||Jimmie Kerr Road – Haw River, Roxboro|
|154.0||247.8||153||NC 119 – Mebane|
|155.5||250.3||154||Mebane–Oaks Road – Mebane|
|Efland||161.3||259.6||160||Mount Willing Road – Efland|
|161.9||260.6||161||To US 70 to NC 86 north (U.S. 70 Connector)|
|Hillsborough||164.0||263.9||163||I‑40 east – Raleigh||East end of I-40 overlap|
|165.2||265.9||164||Old NC 86 – Hillsborough|
|166.5||268.0||165||NC 86 – Chapel Hill, Hillsborough|
US 70 west / US 70 Bus. east to NC 751 – Duke University
|West end of US 70 overlap; to Bennett Place|
|Durham||Durham||173.3||278.9||172||NC 147 south – Downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park||Northbound exit and southbound entrance; to North Carolina Central University|
|174.2||280.3||173||Cole Mill Road|
US 15 south / US 501 south to US 70 Bus. to NC 751 / Hillsborough Road – Chapel Hill
|South end of US 15/US 501 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|176.0||283.2||175||NC 157 (Guess Road)||To NC School of Science & Math and Duke Homestead|
|177.2||285.2||176||US 501 north (Duke Street) / Gregson Street – Roxboro||North end of US 501 overlap; signed northbound as exits 176A (Gregson St) and 176B (Roxboro)|
US 15 Bus. south / US 501 Bus. (Roxboro Street) / NC 55 east (Avondale Drive)
|To North Carolina Central University|
|179.2||288.4||178||US 70 east – RDU Airport, Raleigh||East end of US 70 overlap|
|180.6||290.6||179||East Club Boulevard|
|181.3||291.8||180||Glenn School Road|
|Gorman||183.0||294.5||182||Red Mill Road|
|Granville||186.7||300.5||186||US 15 north – Creedmoor, Butner||North end of US 15 overlap; signed northbound as exits 186A (US 15) and 186B (Butner)|
|Butner||189.7||305.3||189||Gate Two Road – Butner|
|192.0||309.0||191||NC 56 – Butner, Creedmoor|
|202.8||326.4||202||US 15 – Oxford, Clarksville|
|Oxford||205.1||330.1||204||NC 96 – Oxford|
|207.5||333.9||206||US 158 – Oxford, Roxboro|
|Vance||210.6||338.9||209||Poplar Creek Road||To Vance–Granville Community College|
|Henderson||213.0||342.8||212||Ruin Creek Road|
US 158 Byp. west / Dabney Drive
|West end of US 158 overlap|
|215.5||346.8||214||NC 39 – Downtown Henderson|
US 158 Byp. east / Parham Road
|East end of US 158 overlap|
|218.0||350.8||217||Satterwhite Point Road||To Satterwhite Point|
|219.0||352.4||218||US 1 south – Raleigh||Southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|Middleburg||221.0||355.7||220||US 1 / US 158 / Fleming Road – Norlina|
|233.8||376.3||233||US 1 / US 401 – Wise, Norlina|
|State line||234.6||377.6||I‑85 north – Petersburg|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- Google Inc. "Interstate 85". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=I-85+N&daddr=I-85+N&hl=en&ll=35.706377,-79.595947&spn=3.733058,7.13562&sll=36.543588,-78.18411&sspn=0.001804,0.003484&geocode=FcaeGAIdBUgl-w%3BFbGeLQIdbQFX-w&mra=me&mrsp=1,0&sz=19&t=p&z=8. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
- "NCDOT: NC Blue Star Memorial Marker Locations". Retrieved 2011-06-19.
- "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities". Retrieved 2011-06-19.
- Busbee, Jay (May 26, 2013). "There is, alas, a speed limit on the Jeff Gordon Expressway". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- Flores, Adrianne; Brad Broders (October 19, 2011). "Mecklenburg County Commissioners approve 'Jeff Gordon Expressway'". Raleigh, NC: News 14 Carolina. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
- Lyttle, Steve (May 24, 2012). "Ready for the Jeff Gordon Expressway?". Gulfport, MS: Sun Herald.com. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "Flickr - I-85 Jeff Gordon Expressway Ceremony". Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- North Carolina Department of Transportation. Facts: Interstate 85, Page 1. NCDOT Web site. Accessed April 21, 2007.
- Turner, Walter R. (2012-08-05). "The mysterious Yadkin River bridge". Salisbury Post. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- North Carolina Department of Transportation. Facts: Interstate 85, Page 2. NCDOT Web site. Accessed April 21, 2007.
- "I-85 Traffic Flow May Be Smoother". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC). Associated Press. 1988-12-16. p. 5B.
- "North Carolina - Wider I-85 Recommended". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC). 1989-01-27. p. 2B.
- Hall, David A. (1994-11-23). "Interstate 40/85 Freeway Isn't Free of Construction". Greensboro News & Record (Greensboro, NC). p. A1.
- "NCDOT: I-85 Corridor Improvement Project". Retrieved June 19, 2011.
- "NCDOT to open new I-85 Yadkin River bridge on Friday". WBTV.com. 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- http://www.cagc.org/get_involved/awards_pinnacle_13winners.cfm. Retrieved 2014-04-17. Missing or empty
- Lyttle, Steve (2012-04-03). "Part of widened I-85 to open this weekend". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- Lyttle, Steve (2012-04-12). "DOT awards contract for I-85 widening in Cabarrus County". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
- "NCDOT: I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop". Retrieved 2011-01-27.
- Marusak, Joe (February 4, 2012). "New interchange planned for bottlenecked I-77 exit". Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Observer. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
- "SalisburyPost.com: Safety concerns lead to closing of Wil-Cox Bridge; no timeframe on reopening". Retrieved February 18, 2011.
- "NC 150 Route Change (2012-03-01)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. March 1, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
- North Carolina Department of Transportation (January 4, 2012) (PDF). NC 150 Route Change (2012-01-04) (Map). https://connect.ncdot.gov/resources/safety/Route%20Changes/Proposed/US29_US70_NC150_Request_MAPS_120104.pdf. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
- Staff (July 27, 2011). "NCDOT to close Clark Road entrance and exits ramps on I-85 north, section of Snider Kines Road in Davidson County starting Monday". Project Details. North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Media related to Interstate 85 in North Carolina at Wikimedia Commons
- I-85 Corridor Improvement Project
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