I-95 Slated for First-Ever Widening Project

Posted November 26, 2007

— State transportation officials plan to double the size of Interstate 95 across the middle of North Carolina, although much of the project is unfunded.

The three-phase project would add two lanes in each direction – for a total of eight lanes – between Eastover in Cumberland County and the Interstate 40 interchange in Johnston County. The first phase, at a cost of $144 million, would add lanes between Eastover and N.C. Highway 82 between 2012 and 2015.

But the other two phases of the project aren't on any funding priority list.

The project would mark the first-ever widening to I-95. It and Interstate 85 are North Carolina's oldest and busiest interstates. They were designed more than a half-century ago to move military personnel and equipment in an emergency.

Now, they now carry millions of East Coast travelers and commercial trucks passing north and south through the state, as well as a steadily increasing number of commuters.

The state Department of Transportation estimates 53,000 vehicles a day traversed I-85 in North Carolina in 1996. That jumped to 69,000 last year. On I-95, traffic increased from 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day in the same time.

"No one ever believed that we would have this kind of traffic (and) congestion on our interstates," said Christie Barbee, treasurer of transportation advocacy group NC Go! and executive director of the Carolina Asphalt Paving Association. "We're definitely at a crisis point. We're not headed there – we're in the middle of it – and it's only going to get worse."

The section of I-95 that passes through Harnett County is the oldest part of the interstate in North Carolina, having been built nearly 50 years ago. It's been resurfaced a few times, but is basically the same road it was in the early 1960s, only it now carries 2007 traffic.

"I'm surprised it's not six lanes," Harnett County resident Danny Honeycutt said, noting the highway remains two lanes in each direction from South Carolina to Virginia. "It's the same road (it has always been). Like I say, between (Dunn) and Smithfield, especially during the holidays, it's usually backed up pretty tough."

A state DOT analysis shows the most overloaded sections of the interstates are on I-95 from Fayetteville to I-40 and on I-85 from Salisbury to Concord, where that road is also two lanes in each direction.

State Highway Administrator Bill Rosser said meeting the needs of these major highways requires years of planning and mountains of dollars.

"It's a major issue of handling traffic just to do maintenance work, let alone adding lanes or redo interchanges," Rosser said. "It's a challenge for us to manage those routes, (and) I think it's a challenge for our department to have the dollars."

In addition to the greater traffic volume, the tonnage of commercial freight traffic on I-95 and I-85 is increasing as well.

"It's carrying heavier loads than it was designed to carry, and in addition to that, it doesn't have enough capacity," Barbee said.

Over the next two years, the state will use about $21 million in federal highway money to raise bridges over I-95, resurface portions of the interstate and install traffic sensors and message boards to help travelers.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • silverado32 Nov 27, 2007


  • PaulRevere Nov 27, 2007

    It took the South Carolina DOT mere months to widen 1-95 in Florence. Outsourcing, in this case, would be a good thing! NCDOT...always 10 years least.

  • haggis basher Nov 27, 2007

    "You can't toll _existing_ roads" All you have to do is change the law and we all know that only requires enough money.
    Solution might be to simply build new I95 parallel to existing one (they do this in Britain sometimes to avoid the rebuilding chaos) and it might even be cheaper and certainly quicker. Most of I95 in NC goes through nowhere (might have to knock down the RP theatre though :)and they could toll charge on the new sections.

  • mommy2caroline Nov 27, 2007

    Now THIS interstate is one that definitely needs to be a toll. SOOOO much out of state traffic 24/7. THEN we could have some money for legitimate road repairs.

  • skypilot-not Nov 27, 2007

    Bla bla bla bla bla more DOT empty headed nonsense..whatever...

  • jeffthompson Nov 27, 2007

    40,000 cars a day...what a joke...they cut the funding for I-485 in Charlotte...delayed yet another year (and it has over 100,000 cars a day)...seems like priorities are out of whack to me!!!!

  • alleycat Nov 27, 2007

    DOT will spend a billion dollars studying a proglem that a 5 year old could fix. Remember I-40 mess! We wonder why there is no money for real road fixes.

  • 68_polara Nov 27, 2007

    It's crazy that our law makers raid the highway trust fund every year to supplement the general fund then complain roads are under funded.

  • 68_polara Nov 27, 2007

    " I'll take your DOT any day over The Virginia DOT. Just to patch a pothole takes months and thousands of dollars. A project like US1 in Cary would take at least 10 years and 10 times the original budget...I'm not kidding."

    Funny, Virginia's DOT is far better than Pennsylvania's Penn DOT. In PA orange barrels sit in the same lane for years with little or no construction occurring. Believe it or not... it's not an exaggeration. We really don't have anything to complain about in North Carolina.

  • ScreenNameNotInUse Nov 27, 2007

    Actually, the highway could be turned into a toll road, and why it isn't is beyond me. Granted, to do it right would be one expensive undertaking, but could you imagine the revenue?

    In the mean time no one looks down the road forty years or so and asks, "what if?" This failure to have forsight is the same thing I am trying to get my eleven-year-old daughter to understand. Why an adult, or a committee of adults, does not have the ability to use forsight to make predictions and plan for the inevitable is dumbfounding.