Project First Proposed: 1960s Interstate First Proposed: 2014
Construction Started: February 2015 Completion Date (as of 6/19):
The Route: From I-85/US 70 interchange east of
Durham to current I-40/NC 147 - Durham Freeway interchange
in Research Triangle Park, 8 miles
interstate, not officially submitted for approval, was first shown in
signage plans for the Durham East End Connector Project, placed online
on August 19, 20141, would run from the current I-85/US 70
interchange in Durham to I-40 in Research Triangle Park and use the
Connector built to provide a direct connection between the Durham
Freeway (NC 147) and US 70 (Miami Boulevard), as well as improvements
to upgrade US 70 to a limited access freeway from Pleasant Drive to
north of Holloway Street (NC 98).
East End Connector Project Construction Progress
Construction of the Connector started almost 4 years ago on February
26, 2015 after NCDOT awarded the $142 contract to Dragados USA of New
York City on January 7. The project has a tentative completion date of
May 2020 (NCDOT has said the road could open as early as July 2019).2
Although the Durham Freeway and US 70 are just a mile apart, the project
involves constructing 3.9 miles of roadway, including car and railroad
bridges, and long loop ramps at both ends. The new freeway will have two
lanes each way with room to add a third lane in the future.3
As of May 22, 2019, the project was over 4/5 (80.4%) complete, still
slightly behind schedule, which was to be 84.9%.4 Work was
to be completed on upgrading NC 147 by June 2018, according to the NCDOT
project website, that milestone was pushed back on December 18, 2018
then to May 2019.5 A news
story from June 11 now puts completion of the NC 147 part back to
July 2019, the entire project to be completed by May 2020, the extreme
wet weather of the region is probably the biggest culprit for the delay.6
Some traffic camera photos from both ends of the project from Mid-May
to June 2019 (June photo showing installation of overhead signs):
Photos taken in late June 2019 by Charles M. Kunz show first new East
End Connector signage on NC 147:
The overhead signage installed in mid-June show, partially hidden, the
first I-885 shield, though still not officially approved by AASHTO. The
exit tab also shows that they have changed the exit number plan since
the first sign plans were created, this was to be Exit 4 (see plans
below). Apparently having 2 Exit 1s along the Durham Freeway corridor
between NC 540 and the Connector was thought to be too confusing, so NC
147 mileage will continue to be used, at least until I-885 splits off
toward US 70.
A newly installed 1/2 mile advance sign along the future NC 147 lanes
for the Briggs Avenue exit. There appears to be a missing 0 on the exit
tab, as the exit number should be 10.
Photos taken in June 2019 by Adam Prince show little progress since
April due to the weather along US 70:
Little work has occurred in completing the future US 70 eastbound
lanes at the future interchange with I-885, looking west.
This temporary sign has been put up prior to the off-ramp for the new
Carr Road exit on US 70 West.
Again, progress on the future I-885 South lanes to the left has not
really advanced near the Carr Road bridge since April.
US 70 west traffic traveling under temporary railroad bridge, not much
progress seen in building the permanent structure on the other side.
Large cell tower looms over new NC 98 exit off-ramp currently without
any permanent signage.
New overhead 1/2 Mile advance sign for Cheek Road exit, blank space on
right is presumably for yellow right lane ends sign. Notice lack of
progress on completing the road to the left of the concrete barrier.
Photos taken in April 2019 by Isaiah Sconiers showing US 70 West moved
to permanent alignment earlier in the month:
Westbound US 70 traffic at future ramp to I-885 South with nearly
completed flyover ramp in distance, eastbound US 70 traffic to also be
shifted to future US 70 West lanes in near future.
Closeup view of flyover ramp, current US 70 will serve as a service
road going underneath flyover on left.
One new exit sign gantry is up prior to Carr Road bridge while others
await placement in future US 70 East lanes.
US 70 traffic heads under temporary railroad bridge with support posts
now in path of roadway.
Photos taken in late August 2018 at the NC 147 interchange by Adam
Traffic on NC 147 North using temporary cross over to southbound lanes
prior to future East End Connector interchange.
Future I-885/NC 147 lanes currently share northbound traffic while
future northbound lanes are widened and reconstructed ahead of Future
View approaching future I-885 and NC 147/Durham Freeway split shows
future north lanes still only graded. NCDOT's official timeline has the
NC 147 modifications completed by June 2018.
Graded future NC 147/Durham Freeway and I-885 North lanes continue as
ramp for I-885 can be seen heading right in the distance.
Traveling under the future NC 147 South to I-885 North flyover ramp
with view of future Durham Freeway north lanes and ramp curving off to
left in the distance.
View of the future ramp from I-885 South to NC 147/Durham Freeway
North still only graded, along with future NC 147 North lanes.
Photos taken in late July 2018 at the US 70 interchange by David
US 70 traffic has been diverted onto an new roadway to the left of the
future lanes at the East End Connector interchange, part will be used
for future US 70 East ramp traffic (Variable message sign is indicating
NC 98 exit is temporarily closed).
Work to build the flyover ramp from US 70 West to I-885 South can be
completed now that US 70 traffic has been shifted to the left.
Looking to the west of the US 70 roadway one can see the building of
the future ramp to US 70 East from I-885 North.
Closeup view of the US 70 West flyover ramp gap over the incomplete
I-885/US 70 freeway.
US 70 traffic on temporary alignment heading under completed part of
future flyover ramp to I-885 South.
Completed Carr Road bridge can be seen to the right as US 70
transitions back to its existing lanes after the East End Connector
Closer view of completed Carr Road bridge over future I-885/US 70
Workers place asphalt along the closed right lane of US 70 West
heading toward the NC 98 exit.
Workers prepare new alignment for US 70 West lanes diverging from
current roadway approaching railroad bridge.
New lane being built on the right appears will take US 70 West traffic
to right side of railroad bridge in the distance.
US 70 lanes using future I-885 South roadway approaching railroad
bridges (current temporary and future).
New but temporary bridge in front of permanent bridge under
construction approaching NC 98 interchange.
Piers of temporary bridge being dug out as part of construction
process for permanent railroad bridge.
Work is proceeding on new lanes to connect to future NC 98 bridge.
End of new pavement ahead along current alignment of US 70 approaching
the closed NC 98 exit.
Future bridge over NC 98 can be seen on the right, the closed NC 98
exit was at the other side of the bridge.
Closer view of he bridge and work behind it to connect to future I-885
Presumably when future I-885 North bridge over NC 98 is complete,
traffic will be shifted over so that southbound bridge can be
constructed along what is currently US 70 East and West lanes.
Pavement is being placed to the right for future I-885 North lanes
between NC 98 and Cheek Road.
Earlier photos taken by the Durham Herald Sun at the Future US 70
interchange in July 2018:
Construction of flyover ramps still in progress. US 70 traffic using
future eastbound lanes.
Looking along future path of incomplete flyover ramp over Future I-885
North lanes looking east.
Different view showing construction progress at future interchange
with US 70.
View taken from future flyover ramp structure for future US 70
Latest traffic camera view looking south from the NC 55 exit
(northbound camera has been off-line since May 2018) showing progress
adding future I-885 on-ramp to NC 147 North:
Earlier Views from NCDOT Traffic Cameras in March 2018 and December
2017 showing Durham Freeway near EEC interchange, as of March northbound
traffic has been shifted temporarily to completed southbound lanes so
northbound lanes can be rebuilt:
Latest Photos -
Taken on May 5, 2018 by Adam Prince along US 70:
US 70 West approaching future off-ramp to I-885 South, future on-ramp
from the Connector to US 70 East can be seen on the left.
There has been little progress in extending the flyover ramp across
the current US 70 lanes, perhaps they are waiting for traffic to be
shifted to the US 70 freeway lanes.
Future interchange ramp bridges can be seen across US 70 from the
current westbound lanes.
The paved future US 70 freeway lanes are being used as a storage area
for construction materials.
Beyond the NC 98 exit, work continues to upgrade US 70 to become the
future northern end of the I-885 freeway.
on March 20, 2018 by David Johnson from temporary NC 147 northbound
NC 147 North traffic using crossover to access completed southbound
lanes to be shared by Durham Freeway traffic while new northbound lands
approaching the Future I-885 North interchange is completed.
NC 147 traffic in future southbound lanes approaching Glover Road
bridge prior to East End Connector construction.
Contractors have already ripped out old northbound lane surface
approaching future I-885 North exit ramp.
View under completed NC 147 South to I-885 North flyover ramp of
paved Future I-885 ramps and new bridge construction.
Closer look at new bridge construction and removal of former
northbound lanes beyond concrete barriers.
Closer view of completed flyover ramp for NC 147 traffic to access
the East Connector roadway.
Another view of new bridge construction from temporary Durham Freeway
Closer look at new bridge construction heading under the flyover ramp
Earlier Photos - Taken
on July 23 and 28, 2017 by David Johnson:
Traveling southbound showing progress in
building ramp structures over the Durham Freeway:
Traffic being shifted heading toward future I-885 North off-ramp.
The future I-885 North off-ramp is being
The girders for the future I-885 North off-ramp were placed during the
weekend of July 14-16.
While the beams are new the grading of the surrounding roadway has
been completed for a while, based on the grass growth.
A closeup of the bottom of the new ramp structure already having
bridge deck materials being placed between the girders.
The previously placed part of the ramp over the northbound lanes have
been mostly completed.
Traffic south of the interchange is now using the new southbound lanes
heading toward Ellis Road.
Along US 70 at the other end of Connector
View from US 70 East heading toward East End Connector construction
Long standing destination mileage sign on US 70 East approaching
future flyover ramp for East End Connector.
Incomplete flyover ramp for future I-885 South traffic as seen from US
70 East at East End Avenue.
A closer view of he flyover ramp with completed steel work above
future I-885/US 70 lanes.
Some of the support structures for other ramps seen from US 70
awaiting their steel their completion.
Idle crane waits in front of bridge under construction over Future
I-885 lanes being graded leading away from US 70 East.
Looking under the bridge reveals future I-885 roadway toward the
Durham Freeway receiving final grading.
Closer view of southern end of bridge showing work proceeding on
creating barrier walls above Future I-885 lanes.
Earlier Photos from March
31 and April 2, 2017:
First the western section, NC 147, between Briggs Avenue and Ellis
Road, heading South then turning around:
Entering NC 147 South from the Briggs Ave. on-ramp showing traffic
being shifted to a temporary bridge while the future southbound lanes
and ramps are being constructed.
About to head over the temporary bridge on NC 147 South showing
concrete has been poured for future Southbound lanes and bridge
approaching the Future I-885 North off-ramp.
A little further south, concrete barriers separate NC 157 South traffic
from future southbound lanes approaching interchange fly-over ramps.
Approaching the flyover ramp that will take NC 147 South traffic to
I-885 North showing not all the overhead beams have been installed yet.
To the right, not all of the concrete roadway has been placed for the
future South lanes.
Traveling further south after the flyover ramps with the future NC 147
South lanes now elevated to the right.
Work is ongoing in building the future I-885/NC 147 South lanes south
of the interchange with both lanes of current traffic in the future
Construction of new I-885/NC 147 South lanes continues south from the
East End Connector toward Ellis Road, with Glover Road bridge in
Power line warning signs and the start of concrete placement on the
future Southbound lanes highlight the southern part of the East End
Connector work zone.
Turning around at Ellis Road and heading north, the East End Connector
work zone is first viewed prior to passing under the Glover Road bridge.
Work on the Future Southbound lanes can be barely seen above the median
barriers as seen from North NC 147.
Approaching the future split of NC 147 with I-885 North, work on the
future southbound lanes can be seen to the left.
Heading further toward the flyover ramps, the future North I-885 ramp
can be seen to the right, only recently begun grading work.
A closer view of the Future I-885 ramp heading off from NC 147 lanes
about to go under the future flyover ramp and bridge.
A close view of the flyover and other ramp bridges being built over NC
View after traveling under the future ramps of construction area heading
towards the Briggs Avenue exit.
At the northern end of the construction zone, work has started on the
right in building the Future I-885 South ramp to NC 147 North.
Next, the Middle Section-Angier Avenue:
Heading north on Angier Avenue through the East End Connector work zone
shows progress in building supports and grading the future I-885 lanes
to the east to carry traffic over the road and the railroad tracks to
A closer view of
construction while traveling between the bridge pier construction and
the elevated land for the I-885 roadway.
Finally, the Eastern Section - US 70 from East End Avenue to NC 98 (and
View from US 70 West at East End Avenue intersection with East End
Connector work zone coming into view.
View from US 70 west just passed the East End Avenue intersection,
showing Current and Future US 70 lanes.
Approaching the future ramp from US 70 to I-885 South on the right,
where some paving has started heading up toward the ramp overpass.
Looking to the west of US 70, a paved on-ramp from Future I-885 North
and bridge construction can be spotted.
Approaching the future site of the I-885 South off-ramp from US 70 West
with a closer look at the paved lanes.
Another look to the west of US 70 opposite the future I-885 South
Off-Ramp showing grading and paving of future ramp to US 70 East.
Approaching the flyover ramp for I-885 South partially completed over
current US 70 lanes with bridge being constructed to the left.
Closer look of ramp bridge being constructed that will take traffic
under the flyover ramp for US 70 West traffic heading onto I-885 South.
A view to the right from US 70 West shows future I-885/US 70 lanes
heading under completed bridge currently not connected to any street.
A closer look at the future I-885/US 70 lanes shows paving has not
begun along graded roadway underneath the completed bridge.
Signage for the pre-existing US 70 Business exit from US 70 West in the
middle of the East End Connector work zone. When I-885 is completed US
70 Business traffic will use the revised NC 98 exit.
US 70 lanes travel toward future I-885/US 70 lanes to travel under
bridge prior to NC 98 exit.
About to travel over new bridge over Future I-885/US 70 lanes, current
US 70 traveling in future southbound lanes will work is still ongoing to
excavate future northbound lanes.
Future I-885 North lanes continue to the right paralleling US 70 headed
toward the NC 98 Exit.
Prior to the NC 98 exit, work is continuing of the bridge that will
take I-885 North/US 70 West over NC 98.
A closer look at the NC 98 Exit Gore Sign. This will be Exit 7 when
I-885 is completed, see sign plans below.
View at the bottom of the US 70 West off-ramp to NC 98 showing the
construction is proceeding that will take I-885 North traffic over the
Returning east on US 70 showing work is half finished in demolishing
old railroad bridge in front of new one being completed over Future
I-885 South lanes.
Looking South beyond the bridge, over approaching project work zone as
US 70 curves to meet US 70 Business.
Further along approaching East End Avenue intersection with Future
I-885/US 70 lanes to left and flyover ramp in distance.
Approaching East End Avenue and future interchange area, another look
at US 70 West to I-885 South flyover ramp construction.
View on US 70 East beyond East End Avenue showing future US 70 lanes
slowly making their way back to the alignment of the current lanes at
the bottom of the hill.
At the bottom of the hill and the southern end of the East End
Connector project work zone, showing the last part of the new road
alignment merging with the old prior to the Living Waters Community
Earlier Photos -
February 19, 2017
A few photos from Adam Prince showing the progress building the
interchange with NC 147, the Durham Freeway approaching the interchange
on NC 147 North:
October 23, 2016
These photos, from LC, show progress on the eastern side of the
project along US 70 West, traveling through the future I-885/US 70
interchange and further north to the existing freeway north of NC 98:
Here's a view of progress on the NC 147
side from the NCDOT Traffic Camera in the area, taken 10/15/16:
- April 17, 2016
These photos, from Adam Prince, show
progress on the eastern side of the project along US 70 West
traveling through the future I-885/US 70 interchange and then
further north toward the current Business 70 off-ramp:
Previous Photos - November 14, 2015
These photos, from Adam Prince, show the progress on the eastern side
of the project along US 70 toward the current Business 70 off-ramp
Previous Photos - October 30, 2015
These photos, courtesy of Adam Prince, show progress at the future
I-885/NC 147 interchange, compare with previous photos regarding work in
median and in constructing the future I-885 North Off-Ramp:
Previous Photos - June 22, 2015
The contractors have begun clearing the project area, starting first on
the eastern side along US 70, and now along the western side on NC 147
starting in late May. Here are some photos of the clearing along the
Durham Freeway on June 20:
And of the clearing and other construction along US 70 courtesy
of Adam Prince from May 20:
Proposed Route of I-885
This future interstate highway would use an upgraded US 70 freeway East
(South) from I-85 Exit 178 two miles to the planned East End Connector
which would then run about a mile from US 70 to the Durham Freeway (NC
147). The route would then run south with NC 147 for about 5 more miles
to I-40 Exit 270 along the Durham Freeway (planned to be widened to 6
lanes). The benefit of the I-885 proposal would be to provide a single
numerical designation for drivers from I-85 to RTP and, since the East
End Connector is funded as Durham's Urban Loop project, like other NC
cities' urban loops, an interstate designation is appropriate. An even
number is to be used since it would connect two interstates.
NCDOT officials have discussed an I-885 designation for about 10 years,
but the sign plans were the first public notice of the interstate
proposal. An NCDOT official says it may be necessary to upgrade parts of
the Durham Freeway and US 70 (widen some of the existing shoulders
outside of the Project area or request an exemption for a bridge that
might not quite meet the specifications) to get federal approval. NCDOT
doesn't plan to submit applications to either the FHWA or AASHTO until
closer to the East End Connector project's completion.2
Here's a map of the corridor from the News & Observer:
Read more here:
a map of the proposed route, courtesy of the Raleigh News & Observer
The East End Connector has been an official NCDOT project since the
1970s. Traffic planners in Durham had a connecting route from the Durham
Freeway to US 70 in mind earlier in the 1960s when they mapped out the
Durham Freeway and left space for an interchange with the Connector
between Exits 8 and 11. Since there is no direct connection between the
two major east-west highways in the City of Durham (Durham Freeway and
US 70), motorists and truckers often use other streets to access the
highway system. NCDOT estimated over the next 25 years, traffic volumes
would increase significantly and without the Connector additional
cut-through traffic would affect local streets and communities. The East
End Connector, NCDOT argued, would provide a link among four major
transportation routes (I-85, US 70, NC 147, and I-40) and facilitate
better traffic flow.
The project has been shelved several times due to wrangling over
competing Durham road priorities and debates over a state spending
formula that always seemed to find other cities more deserving of
big-project dollars.7 During the 1990s NCDOT, the
Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City
of Durham and Durham County all identified the East End Connector
project as a priority and pressed for funding. The project was made
eligible for funding under the Urban Loop construction fund in the late
1990s after the preferred NCDOT Loop project, a northern bypass which
would have cut through the Eno River State Park, was opposed by city
officials. The neighborhoods to be affected, largely African-American,
were wary of the project, remembering how the building of the Durham
Freeway through the heart of downtown during the 1960s bulldozed much of
the vibrant 'Black Wall Street' area (opposition which prevented the
Freeway from being completed until the late 1990s). NCDOT's preferred
alternative to construct the Connector, ended up with 22 residences and
33 businesses being condemned. The final hurdle, concerns of residents
of the Hayestown neighborhood, located mostly between Angier Avenue and
U.S. 70, was alleviated in 2010 when NCDOT made changes in project plans
to provide an improved interchange at Carr Road to preserve the
neighborhood’s access to U.S. 70.8
Read more here:
Read more here:
Here's a plan for one of the signs at the future intersection between
I-885/US70 and West Business 70/NC 98:
This will be Exits 6 Northbound and 6A and 6B Southbound, the current
Cheek Road exit would be renumbered Exit 7 (with the I-85 exit
renumbered Exit 8), as seen in the plan below:
Here's the plan for the overhead signs at the future southbound split
of I-885 and US 70:
Signage at the west end of the Connector is planned to appear as:
The Split of I-885 (to the Connector) and NC 147 northbound is to be
Ellis Road will become Exit 3, as the sign plan below indicates,
Alexander Drive Exit 2 and Cornwallis Road Exit 1.
Here's signage on NC 147 South approaching the future I-885
interchange, first at Briggs Avenue:
Then approaching the flyover ramp to the Connector, notice the 40 MPH
Finally, here's the proposed signage on the US 70 West:
"Drive" the Future Interstate using Google Maps Street View:
Signage at the Ellis Road exit heading south after the East End
Connector work zone.
Signage at the Alexander Drive exit where NC 147 enters Research
Signage at the Cornwallis Road exit and the approaching I-40 exit prior
to NC 147 South becoming a toll road.
exit ramp to Cornwallis Road northbound. This section of the Freeway
had been recently widened to 3 lanes in anticipation of the completion
of the Triangle Parkway toll road, 10/14/2011.
The 3 lane section ends just beyond the
Alexander Drive interchange. NCDOT now has plans to widen the rest of
the freeway to 3 lanes between here and the Connector and southbound
from the Connector to Cornwallis Road. (10/14/2011)
Signage on I-85 North at Split with US 70 East, this will be the
future northern end of I-885 when the East End Connector project is