Local News

New interstate planned for middle of the state could bring key economic, safety benefits

North Carolina could get a new interstate as part of a newly-passed federal infrastructure bill.

Posted Updated

Keely Arthur
, WRAL reporter
SANFORD, N.C. — North Carolina could get a new interstate as part of a newly-passed federal infrastructure bill.

It would be known as Interstate 685 and potentially have a big impact for the Carolina Core region, including Lee and Harnett counties. The plan is for a road that would start in the Triad and end in Dunn at Interstate 95, just minutes away from Fayetteville.

U.S. Highway 421 would become designated as I-685 in the future, however, there are still a few crucial steps needed in order for the change to become a reality.

Take a cruise down U.S. 421 right now, and things look pretty good, but the move to interstate would bring on noticeable change.

"Most people driving down the freeway wouldn’t know the difference between a freeway and interstate," said Kevin Lacy, a state traffic engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Lacy said the switch from U.S. Highway 421 to Interstate 685 would be significant from a design standpoint.

"It’s actually a notch above most freeways," Lacy said. "(It has) wider shoulders, and the bridges and other things have better clearances."

As far as safety? "It absolutely is safer (than the typical freeway)," Lacy said.

Additionally, economic developers in the area are excited about the prospect of the interstate helping boost business from travelers heading through the area.

As North Carolina continues to experience a population boom, expanding major roads becomes more of a priority in connecting the state's metro areas like the Triangle, Triad and Metrolina. U.S. 421 is a common way for commuters from the Sandhills to get to cities like Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

In eastern North Carolina, a stretch of U.S. Highway 264 between Wilson and Greenville is becoming Interstate 587. U.S. 70, a four-lane route between Raleigh and Morehead City, has been undergoing upgrades to become Interstate 42 in recent years.

"As the state continues to grow, we just can’t continue to widen I-40 to serve all the traffic especially the freight traffic," Lacy said.

I-685 would also be easily accessed by Fort Bragg.

"It would be a huge advantage from a military readiness perspective as well as continuity of services and so forth," Lacy said.

The Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation still need to approve the change in order for the NCDOT to begin work.


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