I-495 corridor could become economic lifeline for NC, Va.
Posted June 2, 2015
Updated June 3, 2015
The Interstate 495 corridor in eastern Wake County connects Raleigh’s Beltline with Interstate 95 in Rocky Mount.
But officials hope that’s not the end of the road. They want the corridor to connect the Triangle with the Hampton Roads area in Virginia.
The future interstate would run along U.S. Highway 64 to Williamston, then along the U.S. Highway 17 corridor toward Norfolk, Va. Proponents say it would be a huge economic boost for both states.
“This corridor would tie those two metro economic engines together,” said Joe Milazzo, executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance, a business organization. “This would be an economic lifeline to them. It wouldn't make them prosperous, but would give them an opportunity for prosperity to occur.”
Rocky Mount is one of the communities that would benefit, he said. Recruiters know industry needs interstate connections before building a major facility.
“It is imperative for the future of eastern North Carolina that we have an interstate,” said Theresa Pinto with the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce.
It's not just industry that could benefit. The interstate could shave a half-hour off the trip between Norfolk and Raleigh, which would boost tourism.
Raleigh tourism officials have been pushing the interstate plan for a decade.
“It would certainly (be) a hugely significant impact for the leisure market, but also for group business, sports, meetings and conventions,” said Dennis Edwards, president of the Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Bipartisan bills are moving through both houses of Congress to start the project.
The 495 designation is good only to I-95 in Rocky Mount. A completed interstate to Norfolk would have a new federal designation. Regional transportation planners have requested I-44 or I-50 as potential route numbers.
Much of the route already is freeway, which would need some minor upgrades to meet interstate standards. Pinto says the estimated $1 billion cost is an investment that would pay huge returns.
“If it's not done, though, we don't see any growth,” she said.