Interstate 85 in North Carolina
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 links the three largest metropolitan areas in North Carolina: Metrolina, the Piedmont Triad, and the Research Triangle. Nine of the twenty largest municipalities in the state lie along I-85, and it connects those cities to Richmond, Virginia to the north, and Upstate South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia to the south.
I-85 highlighted in red
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length||234.6 mi (377.6 km)|
|South end||I-85 at the South Carolina line near Blacksburg, SC|
| I-485 in Charlotte (twice)|
I-77 / US 21 in Charlotte
I-285 / I-85 Bus. / US 29 / US 52 / US 70 near Lexington
I-74 near Archdale
I-73 / US 421 in Greensboro
I-40 in Greensboro
US 15 / US 501 in Durham
US 1 in Henderson
|North end||I-85 at the Virginia line near Bracey, VA|
|Counties||Cleveland, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Davidson, Randolph, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville, Vance, Warren|
I-85 enters the state from Cherokee County, South Carolina near Grover in Cleveland County, an outer suburb of the Charlotte metropolitan area. After only a few miles, the highway enters Gaston County. 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 as it enters Mecklenburg County, then interchanges with I-485 as it passes north of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. After crossing I-485, it turns northeastward again, bypassing Uptown Charlotte to the west and north. While the route does not enter Uptown, several exits do provide access to the area. An interchange with Interstate 77 north of Uptown provides direct freeway access. The route through Charlotte traverses the northern portion of the city and 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.
North of Charlotte, I-85 interchanges with I-485 a second time as it continues northeastward into Cabarrus County. In Concord, it passes through a dense commercial district and provides access to both Concord Mills shopping mall and Charlotte Motor Speedway, afterwards passing south and east of Kannapolis. As of February 2019, the highway between exit 58 (near Concord) and exit 68 near the Rowan County town of China Grove is being rebuilt and expanded from 4 lanes total (two in each direction) with no shoulders. When complete, the route will have 8 total lanes through to its junction with Business 85 south of Lexington.
Between Exits 96 and 102, the northbound and southbound lanes switch places. The southbound lane crosses over the northbound lane just before the northbound lane passes over a small bridge over Hamby Creek. East of the northbound overpass and southbound underpass with Squire Bowers Road, a pair of rest areas which contain the North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park are entered from the right, but are still in the median. Only after the underpasses beneath Johnsontown Road does the northbound lane run over the southbound one returning to its proper location.
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. In between Greensboro and Durham, 85/40 is 8 lanes wide even through the more suburban stretches. Once 85 hits Durham it temporarily widens to 10 lanes. It takes on a more suburban character once it leaves Durham and then heads into rural areas, bypassing Oxford and Henderson before crossing into Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
Dedicated and memorial namesEdit
I-85 in North Carolina feature a few dedicated or memorialized stretches of freeway.
- Blue Star Memorial Highway – official North Carolina honorary name of Interstate 85 throughout the state (approved: May 5, 1967).
- 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.
- Julius Chambers Highway – official North Carolina name of I-85 between I-77/US 21 and the I-85 Connector (four miles (6.4 km)), in Charlotte. It is named in honor of Julius L. Chambers, who was a lawyer, civil rights leader and educator (dedicated May 24, 2018).
- 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 mi (2.6 km)). It is named in honor of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon (dedicated May 25, 2012).
- Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge – official North Carolina name of Bridge over Yadkin River on Interstate 85 between Rowan and Davidson counties (approved: May 11, 2011).
- Bob Timberlake Freeway - official North Carolina name of I-85 from exit 92 to exit 96 in Davidson County.
- Richard Childress Freeway - official North Carolina name of I-85 from exit 96 to exit 102 in Davidson County.
- Congressman J. Howard Coble Highway – official North Carolina name of I-85 from I-40 to Alamance Church Road in Guilford County (approved: December 1, 2016). It is named in honor of Congressman Howard Coble, who represented North Carolina's 6th district for 30 years.
- 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).
- Dr. John H. Franklin Highway – official North Carolina name of I-85/US 70, between Cole Mill Road (exit 173) and US 70 (exit 178), in Durham. It is named in honor of John Hope Franklin, an American Historian and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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. This was part of an 80-mile expressway completed in 1955 between Lexington and Hillsborough.
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.
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 were 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 Whitsett.
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.
Following the completion of the widening of I-85 between exits 49 and 55, a new project was started to widen I-85 from exit 55 (NC 73) in Concord, Cabarrus County northward to exit 68 (NC 152) in China Grove, Rowan County. Like the prior project, I-85 is being doubled in capacity, expanding from two travel lanes in each direction to four travel lanes in each direction. The project is currently underway, with the first phase (from Exit 55 to Exit 63) begun in Spring 2014, and the second phase (from Exit 63 to Exit 68) begun in Spring 2017. 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).
|Interstate 85 Business||Lexington, High Point, and Greensboro||Business loop||Expressway grade from Lexington-High Point, freeway grade in Greensboro|
|Interstate 285||Lexington and Winston-Salem||Connector||Complete concurrency with US 52|
|Interstate 485||Charlotte||Beltway||Uses Huntersville, Matthews and Pineville as control cities|
|Interstate 785||Greensboro and Danville||Spur||Currently a 2.21-mile (3.56 km) stub in eastern Guilford County; to be extended|
|Interstate 885||Durham||Connector||Proposed designation along NC 147 and US 70|
|Cleveland||Grover||0.0||0.0||I-85 south – Spartanburg||Continuation from South Carolina|
|||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, Huntersville||Signed southbound as exits 30B (north/inner) and 30A (south/outer)|
|Charlotte||32.0||51.5||32||Little Rock Road – CLT Airport|
|33.2||53.4||33||Billy Graham Parkway (Charlotte Route 4) – Farmers Market||To Billy Graham Library|
|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||Hybrid interchange|
|38.8||62.4||39||Statesville Avenue / Statesville Road|
|41.3||66.5||41||Sugar Creek Road (Charlotte Route 4)|
|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 to I-77 north – Huntersville, Matthews||Turbine interchange; I-77 signed southbound|
|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||DDI|
|53.6||86.3||54||George W. Liles Parkway / Kannapolis Parkway|
|55.0||88.5||55||NC 73 – Concord, Huntersville||To Rowan-Cabarrus Community College South Campus; DDI |
|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||Signed as exits 60A and 60B|
|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)|
|East Spencer||79.0||127.1||79||Andrews Street – Spencer, East Spencer|
|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-285 north / 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 (Hargrave Road) to I-285 / US 52|
|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 – 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 US 29 and west end of US 70 overlap|
|119.5||192.3||119||Groometown Road to Grandover Parkway||Signed as exit 122A southbound|
|120.0||193.1||120A||US 29 north / US 70 east – Greensboro||North end of US 29 and east end of US 70 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-785 north – Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Danville||West end of I-40 overlap; hidden I-840 west|
|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 VA|
|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|
|||234.6||377.6||I-85 north – Petersburg||Continuation into Virginia|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
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