A western bypass of Fayetteville has been in the planning stages for decades. The 36-mile Outer Loop route was planned both as a vehicle bypass of Fayetteville and as a direct interstate link to Fort Bragg for military and civilian transportation.1 The completed freeway would run from I-95 at its current intersection with US 13 to the west and south of Fayetteville reconnecting with I-95 north of St. Pauls in Robeson County. When completed the route will be designated Interstate 295.
Construction on the Loop began in 2001. Currently, in March 2019, almost 14 miles are open to traffic. The opening of the segment from US 401 to NC 211/ Murchison Road on August 16, 2016 closed what was two disconnected segments. The older eastern, and longest, segment, until recently signed as Future Interstate 295, consists of the first section of the Loop completed in June 2003, which ran three miles from US 401 (Ramsay Street) across the Cape Fear River to River Road2 and a second section, about 4 miles, connecting I-95 to River Road that was completed in July 2005. A western segment, 1 1/2 mile route designated NC 24/27 taking those routes from Bragg Blvd (where NC 24/27 intersects the Loop from the south) to Murchison Road (NC 210), opened in the summer of 2014. A 1/2 mile segment to continue the highway west to the All-American Freeway was finished on December 2, 2016. In late 2014, NCDOT replaced all the Future I-295 signage in the eastern section with NC 295 signs (see photos below) and the rest of the route when opened in 2016 was also signed as NC 295. NCDOT sought in 2019, and was granted by both AASHTO and the FHWA, permission to sign the completed section as I-295 (see below for discussion about why the state vs. Interstate designation).3
Funding to build the Loop from US 401 to Bragg Blvd/All-American Freeway was approved in November 2008, however construction was split into several staggered contracts due to NCDOT budget problems. The first of these segments to be completed was from NC 210/Murchison to Bragg Blvd, originally to be finished in March 2014, but was not opened until August 2014. The next section constructed was from US 401 to NC 210 with the roadbed completed in June 2014, but the paving of this section was in a separate contract only let in March 2014. This project is not due to be finished until August 2016.2 Meanwhile, construction started in July 2011 on the next segment of the Loop, 1.2 miles from Bragg Blvd. to Yadkin Road to be completed later in 2015, this section does not have an interchange so will remain closed until the next segment to Cliffdale Road is complete. The remaining segments west and south of Yadkin Road back to I-95 near St. Pauls were originally not funded, but in December 2014 it was announced that the latest NCDOT STIP, December 2014, would fund projects to complete the entire Loop, the first of these projects will start in 2016, the last in 2021, and the whole Loop could be complete by 2025.4 In December 2015 then NC Governor McCrory announced changes to the state budget that would allow more money to be dedicated to transportation projects. Under the plan, the last segments of the Outer Loop would be accelerated a year to start construction in 2020, the Loop would be completed by 2023 under the new timetable, which needs first to be approved by the NCDOT Board in January 2016.4 The latest project to start will be the segment from Cliffdale Road south to US 401 west of Fayetteville, construction started in August 2016. The last segment from US 401 to Camden Road is to be let in July 2020 with work scheduled to be completed by 2024. Each of these projects are discussed in greater detail below the photos section.
Here was the official NCDOT schedule for the projects to complete the I-295 Fayetteville Outer Loop between Fort Bragg and I-95 in Robeson County from the 2020-2029 STIP and later NCDOT press releases (The letting of the BB and BA segment have been delayed to July 2020, see below):
|Segment||Location||Cost ($Mil)||Start date||Completion date|
|DA||East of SR 1415 (Clearwater Blvd) to West of NC 24/27 (Bragg Blvd) - COMPLETED||54.4||Oct. 2014||July 2015|
|CB||South of SR 1400 (Cliffdale Rd) to East of SR 1415 (Clearwater Blvd) - UNDER CONSTRUCTION||125.5||Oct. 2014||Oct. 2018|
|CA||South of US 401 to South of SR 1400 (Cliffdale Rd) - UNDER CONSTRUCTION||14.8||2016||March 2021|
|BB||South of SR 1104 (Strickland Bridge Rd) to South of US 401 (ROW in Progress)||45.0||Aug. 2018||2022|
|BA||South of SR 1003 (Camden Rd) to South of SR 1104 (Strickland Bridge Rd) (ROW in Progress)||60.9||Aug. 2018||2022|
|AB||South of SR 1118 (Parkton Rd) to South of SR 1003 (Camden Rd) - UNDER CONSTRUCTION||119.5||Jan. 2018||July 2021|
|AA||I-95 in Robeson County to South of SR 1118 (Parkton Rd) in Cumberland County - UNDER CON.||48.3||Jan. 2018||July 2021|
|Total Cost for 22.5 Miles:||570.4|
Here's the earlier official NCDOT schedule for the now completed section of the Fayetteville Outer Loop between Fort Bragg and I-95/US 13:5
|Segment||Location||Length||Start date||Completion date|
|B||West of NC 24-87 (Bragg Blvd) to East of NC 210 (Murchison Rd)||1.0 Miles||June 2009||March 2013|
|BC||East of NC 210 (Murchison Rd) to 1.1 Miles East of NC 210||1.1 Miles||March 2011||July 2014|
|BB||West of NC 24-87 (Bragg Blvd) to East of NC 210 (Murchison Rd)-Paving of Sections B and BC||2.1 Miles||Jan. 2013||August 2014|
|CA||1.1 Miles East of NC 210 to East of SR 1600 (McArthur Rd)||2.0 Miles||March 2011||July 2014|
|CB||East of SR 1600 (McArthur Rd) to West of US 401||2.1 Miles||March 2011||July 2014|
|CC||1.1 Miles East of NC 210 to to West of US 401-Paving Sections CA and CB-UNDER CONSTRUCTION||4.1 Miles||March 2014||August 2016|
|DA||West of US 401 to East of SR 1714 (River Road)||3.3 Miles||June 2000||June 2003|
|DB||East of SR 1714 (River Rd) to US 13/I-95||4.8 Miles||August 2003||July 2005|
Exits 34 to 28 Southbound
Exits 28 to 34 Northbound
Photos taken at the future southern I-95 interchange with I-295 in September 2019 by Adam Prince:
Approaching the construction area for the future I-295 interchange near St. Pauls.
Contractors have cleared land alongside I-95 South for future interchange.
A conveyor belt system is being used to carry excavated dirt across the I-95 lanes as a more efficient method of construction than hundreds of truck trips.
A closer view of the conveyor belt over I-95 South.
View of tree clearing for construction of the I-295 interchange on the other side of I-95.
Photos taken in August 2016 by Rob Adams:
Exit sign on I-95 showing designation as NC 295 and new control city of Fort Bragg, now accessible by Fayetteville Outer Loop.
Overhead signage along on-ramp from I-95 South showing NC 295 designation and new control city of Fort Bragg.
US 401 exit sign with new exit number tab (28) replacing former 'All Traffic Must Exit' tab.
NC 295 South reassurance marker. Sign plans indicated these were to be accompanied by Future I-295 signs (see sign plans below).
Another reassurance marker beyond the McArthur Road exit showing noise barriers along Outer Loop corridor.
1 Mile Advance sign for Murchison Road exit on NC 295 South showing re-routing of NC 24 West/NC 87 North away from Bragg Blvd.
Overhead signage at end of newly opened section showing signs for both Murchison Road and Bragg Blvd exits (the All American Fwy text should be covered over since the Loop will not extend that far until this December).
Overhead signage at current end of NC 295 at Bragg Blvd. Traffic uses the future C/D lanes to access Bragg Blvd.
Signage along the unfinished C/D ramp directing traffic to Bragg Blvd heading south.
Previously placed guide signage along Bragg Blvd for Loop entrance ramp, now with NC 295 shield.
Another overhead guide sign on Bragg Blvd with newly placed NC 295 shield at the ramp itself.
Overhead exit signage for NC 24/87 exit at the western end of Fayetteville Loop segment with NC 295 exit number in place. Work continuing the Loop to the All-American Freeway (to open in December 2016) and beyond can be seen in the distance.
Closer view of Exit Gore sign with Future 295 number at off-ramp to Bragg Blvd.
Overhead signs at the bottom of the ramp leading from the current western end of the Fayetteville Loop
Guide signage approaching Fayetteville Loop on Bragg Blvd heading North with missing space for future NC 295 (and eventually I-295) shield.
Overhead signage for NC 24/87 approaching entrance to the on-ramp for Future 295 North heading south on Bragg Blvd. The blank space on the left-hand sign is for an NC 295 shield.
Overhead signage for West NC 24 and South NC 87 approaching Fayetteville Loop interchange on NC 210 North with missing NC 295 (future I-295) shield.
West NC 24 and South NC 87 trailblazers approaching Fayetteville Loop overpass on NC 210 heading north under overpass.
South NC 295 reassurance marker beyond I-95 exit. By late 2014 all the Future I-295 shields were taken down on the Loop and at exit ramps and replaced with NC 295 signs (2/5/15). Courtesy of Dan Murphy.
Original sign assembly at the then beginning of the Outer Loop at US 401, showing the future I-295 signage, none of the Future 295 shields had a directional banner. (Feb. 2005)
View going eastbound just west of the US 401 interchange headed toward the bridge over the Cape Fear River. (Feb. 2005)
View from the Cape Fear River bridge with the first sign for the River Road exit, where the Outer Loop ended before the next section was completed in July 2008. Notice the narrowness of the right and, particularly the left shoulders, which appear to not meet Interstate standards. (Feb. 2005) The exits did not have numbers, these were installed when the next section of the Loop to Bragg Blvd. was completed.
Then new signage at the Outer Loop interchange at River Road, the only previous marker at the ramp was a street sign listing Future 295 (July 2005).
Here's signage at the end of Northbound Future I-295 at the I-95 interchange. There is a high-speed flyover to I-95 North (Photo courtesy of Adam Prince).
An End 295/Begin US 13 sign at the eastern (northern) end of the Loop, beyond the I-95 interchange. (July 2005)
Signage at the original end of the Loop going westbound (south) at US 401 (notice the 0 on the shield doesn't quite mix with the other numbers (photo courtesy of Adam Prince).
NCDOT originally petitioned to have this roadway designated as I-195. The odd-number designation as an interstate spur route probably was chosen (at least as a temporary designation) because a funding source was not secured at the time to construct the entire 35-mile loop. The I-195 designation, however, was rejected by AASHTO in June 2003. Later in that year funds were secured to start planning to extend the route further south, making it a true loop back to I-95.6 NCDOT then decided the route should be called I-295 and this number subsequently appeared on several NCDOT publications.* AASHTO followed the FHWA's lead and approved the I-295 number designation at the May 6, 2005 meeting of the organization's Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (USRN).7
Though the Interstate 295 number was now official, NCDOT first signed the road as Future I-295. This was probably due to design aspects of the highway that do not meet interstate standards (such as the narrow shoulders on the Cape Fear River bridge (noted in the photo above) and the US 13 interchange (see photo below) which does not at present allow freeway to freeway access from I-95 North, nor as of early 2018, allow traffic to take a left turn onto the Loop from I-95 North, traffic must take a right and turn around at the next intersection. There are no projects in the 2018-2027 STIP to upgrade these aspects of the roadway, but according to plans for the construction projects started before the spring of 2014, the entire route was to be designated I-295 when completed. However, in May 2014 NCDOT released plans for the final contract needed to complete the loop to the All-American freeway. The sign plans now has the route signed as NC 295, even where earlier plans had shown I-295 signs (see below). By the end of 2014 NCDOT had changed all Future 295 signage between I-95 and US 401 to NC 295, including on the exit sign on I-95.8 Apparently, the FHWA, either due to the design aspects, or because funding was incomplete to build the entire 34 mile loop, indicated they could not approve the interstate designation. NCDOT had plans, however, to post Future I-295 signs alongside the NC 295 signs on the Loop when the route to the All American Freeway was completed, perhaps indicating the NCDOT belief that the FHWA decision will change later on. However, those signed were never posted as shown in the photos above.9
NCDOT Asks for I-295, Again
In September 2018, the AASHTO USRN published applications for its upcoming Fall Meeting in October. Among the 3 from NCDOT were two asking that the existing NC 295 from I-95 to the All American Freeway be signed as I-295 and for the rest of the route, currently under construction, to be designated as Future I-295.10 The I-295 application mentions the previous approval of the Future I-295 designation, that the route is up to Interstate Standards, and provides an important link between Fort Bragg and I-95. The Interstate Standards reference is questionable, as cited above due to both the bridge over the Cape Fear River and the interchange with I-95 that includes stop signs and left turns, and now a redesigned ramp from I-95 North which makes traffic heading for NC 295 South to take a right on US 13 then make a U-Turn. The application also implies that AASHTO never asked that the previous Future I-295 signs be removed, meaning it was either the FHWA of NCDOT itself. On September 20, AASHTO approved the application, no concurrence by the FHWA required (the NCDOT application stated the FHWA had given a favorable opinion on the addition of the route to the interstate system back in 2003). In May 2019, the FHWA added I-295 to its official Auxiliary Interstate Route log.11 It is unknown at this time (July 23, 2019) when NCDOT plans to put up I-295 shields.12
* Though several other route numbers appear for the Loop on other documents. The official 2005 state highway map listed it as NC 13. NCDOT called the route the 'NC 24 extension' on its contract listing for the US 301 to I-95 section in previous TIP documents.
Here's Future I-295's first appearance on a map, the 2006 North Carolina State Transportation Map, that is. In anticipation of the current 'demotion' of the route to NC 295, that designation appeared on the Loop on the 2013-2014 state map.
This photo shows that traffic coming from I-95 south must take a left turn crossing the west- (south) bound Loop. (courtesy of Adam Prince)
Before the budget problems cropped up construction of the next section from US 401 to the Bragg Blvd. was scheduled to start in late 2008. With the passage of the economic stimulus bill in February 2009, NCDOT got $385 million for highway construction, the project was then split up into three contracts: X-0002BC, X-0002CA, and X-0002CB. Only one of which qualified as a 'shovel-ready' project and could start using the stimulus funds. Construction was started on a 1.5 mile (2.5 km) section from west of Bragg Blvd. to Murchison Road in July 2009. This section is separated from the completed section east of US 421 by 3 miles and was completed in 2013.1 This project did not include, however, final paving, structures, and signing which were let in a separate contract in October 2012. Work started in January 2013 and the segment was opened on Monday, August 4, 2016.2
The next part of the project was at the western end, 1/2 mile from Bragg Blvd. to the All-American Freeway, started in the fall of 2009. This project, like that between US 401 and NC 210, was meant only to build the highway to a graded surface. Paving of this part of the highway and the building of the remainder east from Murchison Road to connect to US 401 was put off until this project was completed in March 2014.16 The paving contract (C203361) was let on June 17, 2014, with work starting on August 25, 2014. Work was completed in December 2016.17 Work also started on a small (about 1.2 mile or 1.9 km) segment of the Loop (Contract C202829) west of the All American Freeway in November 2011. This segment will extend the Loop to just east of Yadkin Road and, was supposed to be complete by December 2015, however as of the end of 2015, it was still only 93.7% complete, since there is no interchange on the south end of this project, it will not be used until segments south are complete.18
While drivers will have to wait until the road is open to use it, thanks to plans posted by NCDOT, here are some of the signs that will be posted, or were planned to be posted, along the future length of the Fayetteville Outer Loop. With the approval of the I-295 designation, will the I-295 shields that have been dropped from the latest plans make their reappearance?:
Here is an early plan for the exit signage for the All-American Freeway. Notice the reference to I-295 and the lack of an official exit number. NCDOT has been petitioned to designate the All-American Freeway as NC 555, but this number had not been approved as of December 2014.
Here is the first sign plan for signage at the end of the Bragg Blvd-Murchison Road segment, with then planned I-295 North sign.
This was the plan for signage at Murchison Road.
Here is the latest signage plan for the same area with the change from I to NC 295.
Recent sign plan for Bragg Blvd/All-American Freeway Exit, with Exit number, plans are to close the main entrance to Bragg Blvd by 2016, and so, West NC 24 and North NC 87 are to be rerouted along the Loop to Murchison Road/NC 210. The connection to the All-American Freeway won't open until July 2015, it will thus be covered over until then
The previous plan for signage at the Bragg Blvd interchange. Note the future planned placement of an I-295 South pull-through sign.
Here is the most recent plan for signage for the All-American Freeway with the new NC 295 designation.
One of the recent sign plans shows the re-designation of the Loop from Future I-295 to NC 295, this will be the new signage on I-95.
Here's the planned signage for the Loop itself, NC 295 reassurance markers paired with Future I-295 signs.
Until late 2011 construction on the rest of the Loop, even with a continued significant proportion ($258 million, 19% for current construction) of highway trust fund moneys available,2 was to be a decade or more away.19 However, in the fall of 2011 the NC government announced its intention of funding construction of additional priority highways, which would include I-295. In September 2012 NCDOT announced it will fund a $104.6 million extension of I-295 from the All American Freeway to Cliffdale Road. The project was put out to bid in August 2014. The segment will have two interchanges with Reilly Road near a Fort Bragg gate at Canopy Lane in addition to that at Cliffdale Road and is expected to be completed in March 2020 officially, though reports indicate it could open in the fall of 201920 delayed a year from October 2018, then March 2019.21 Work started on this project on October 24, 2014 and as of August 1, 2019 was 90.7% complete, still behind of its revised completion percentage of 96.4%.22 Another segment, from Cliffdale Road to US 401 was started under a design-build contract awarded to Barnhill Contracting Co. in August 2016, work includes replacement of an existing bridge over Bones Creek. The work is scheduled to be completed in by the end of 2020, as of the end of June 2019, the work is 44.6% complete.23 NCDOT announced the $129.7 million contract to build the segment from Camden Road to I-95 in Dec. 2017. Work started on January 2, 2018 and is planned to be completed by June 2022, it will include an interchange at Parkton Road. As of the end of July 2019, the project was 24.2% complete.24 Drivers on I-95 started to notice in late summer 2019 a conveyor belt being built over the roadway. This will carry dirt being excavated for the I-295 interchange across to the east side of the interstate where it will be carried elsewhere, preventing over 100,000 truck trips that would have been needed to do the same job.20 (A photo can be found here). The August 2016 construction contract sections can be found on this map.25 The remaining segment, from US 401/Raeford Road to Camden Road, as indicated in the table at the top of the page, was to be let in January 2019, however, due to litigation over Right-of-Way issues this was delayed until May. In December 2018, NCDOT decided to split the contract with the northern segment (TIP U-2519BB) between US 401 and Strickland Road to be let in May 2019 and the remainder between Strickland Road and Camden Road (TIP U-2519BA) to be let in October 2019, dubbing it a 'strategic letting'.26 However, in April 2019, the projects disappeared completely from the 12-Month Tentative Letting List, no reason given, meaning they will not start until at least June 2020.27 The project later appeared in the August 2019 to July 2020 list for July 2020. The delay pushed back the original NCDOT timeline, which would probably have meant completion by the end of 2023.
The proposed path and potential interchanges for the to be built sections are in the map below:5
The plans for the US 401 to Murchison Road section indicated the route will become full I-295 upon the project's completion and also listed exit numbers that will be placed at all interchanges from the vicinity of Bragg Blvd back to I-95. The new 2014 project plans indicate the route will be signed as NC 295 and slightly altered the exit numbers. Exit numbers as of December 2015 have appeared on the segment between Bragg Blvd. and Murchison Road. The remaining exit numbers were installed after the segment from US 401 to Murchison Road opened on August 11, 2016.
The new exit number plan, including the to be constructed section to Cliffdale Road, is9: [Open as of September 2018]
Exit 34 Interstate 95
Exit 28 US 401
Exits 25A-B McArthur Rd
Exit 23 NC 210 Murchison Rd
NC 24 NC 27 Bragg Blvd
Exit 21A-B All-American Freeway
Exit 18 Canopy Ln to Reilly Rd
Exit 15 Cliffdale Rd