approved in 1997 after a concerted campaign by public officials and
business interests from Danville, VA and counties in North Carolina
north of Greensboro,to establish an interstate connection between
Greensboro and southern Virginia to improve the economic prospects of
the region. The route was approved as Future I-785 in 1997 by AASHTO.1
Future I-785 signs went up along US 29 soon after. Original planning
for the route had it taking US 29 for its entire length. Here's the
original route in the application:
However, the section near Greensboro would have required an extensive and costly upgrade of the existing US 29 expressway. Instead, NCDOT decided to route it along its planned Greensboro Urban Loop, I-840, to make the connection between US 29 and I-85. The first section of that route between I-40/I-85 and US 70 opened in 2002, but it was signed as Future I-840,not as I-785. The next segment from US 70 to US 29 started construction in 2011 and was opened to traffic in late 2014. Prior to that in July 2013 the FHWA approved the signing of I-785 along the soon to be completed Loop segment. Though officially also I-840, this section received only I-785 signs upon opening to differentiate it from the disconnected western section of the Loop, until the entire Loop was completed in January 2023. Of the remaining planned route, the section of US 29 freeway north of Reidsville is already up to interstate standards and needs no further work. This section, however, cannot be signed as an interstate until it can connect to the current I-785 along the Greensboro Loop. The section between the Loop and Reidsville is a 4-lane divided highway with some grade separated interchanges and other cross-street intersections that will have to be removed, a project to do that, now only covering the section south of NC 150 in Reidsville, is not currently planned to start until 2031, the remainder unfunded. Therefore it is unlikely I-785 will be signed north of Greensboro until at least 2035. More specific details about the highway can be found in the Segment sections below.
Check out my Tentative I-785 Exit List (under construction)
Segment 1 - Greensboro Urban Loop, I-40/I-85 to US 29 6.8 Miles Complete
For information and photos from this Segment see Greensboro Urban Loop page on New and Future NC Interstate website
Segment 2 - US 29, Greensboro Urban Loop to Business US 29, Reidsville 10 Miles Construction Planned starting in 2031
was part of the original US 29 alignment, upgraded to a divided
highway over the years. The roadway is not up to interstate standards
and includes some cross-street intersections. Currently NCDOT has 2
projects in its Final 2024-2033 STIP to upgrade this section to
interstate standards. The first, R-5889A, 6 miles from I-785 to NC 150
is estimated to cost $186.2 million dollars and be constructed over 3
or 4 years, however there is currently no plan to start purchasing
Right of Way for the project until 2028, nor start construction until
2031. The second, R-5889B, 4 miles from NC 150 to Bus. 29 (listed to
US 158/NC 14 in the STIP, but that includes the current freeway
section) is listed as 'Funded for Preliminary Engineering Only' with
no start date.2 As part of its 2024 budget resolution, the
NC legislature in the fall of 2023 called for NCDOT to work with
federal agencies and the state's congressional delegation to 'expedite
the interstate designation' of US 29 from Greensboro to the Virginia
border.3 It is unknown at this time whether this will
produce and accelerated project schedule. Currently, NCDOT is
reconstructing the interchange between US 29 and Reedy Fork Parkway.
The $46.4 million project that started in June 2021 and is 48.5%
complete as of August 22, 2023 also includes upgrading the surrounding
1.3 miles of road, starting beyond Hicone Road and adding an exit
number on signage (Exit 137, and creating Future I-785 signing, see
sign plans below), after the planned completion date of October 2024.4
Segment 3 - US 29, Business US 29, Reidsville to VA Border 24 Miles Complete
This section is up to current interstate standards. It cannot be signed as I-785 though until it is connected to an upgraded US 29 Segment 2 between its southern end and the I-785 segment of the Greensboro Loop. This section is newer than Segment 2 of US 29 and was built in two stages. The first was the US 29 Bypass of Reidsville which was completed in 1973. Later between 1980 and 1982 the remainder of the freeway to the Virginia border was constructed.5 This section opened in 1990. The entire freeway section was upgraded to Interstate standards in the years after. A sign upgrade project was started in the early 2000s. It was after this in 2006 that NCDOT decided to add numbers to the exit signs. Since the numbers were based on US 29 mileposts, it was obvious that NCDOT felt the completion of I-785 would still be years away.
A. Sign plans associated with construction of the Greensboro Urban Loop, to be completed in January 2023:
Plans showing changes to signage and exit tabs at current I-785 South exit from US 29 South. The tab should read Exit 135 A.
Sign plan for the I-840 West exit off of US 29 South. Would PTI Airport be a useful addition? To I-73?
B. Sign plans for the current project of upgrading the interchange with Reedy Fork Parkway, to be complete in 2024 that will extend the Interstate standard freeway 2 miles further north from Hicone Road:
The plan for the future exit signs headed north and south.
Future signage at the on-ramps to US 29 from Reedy Fork Parkway.
They also plan to replace the current Future I-785 sign with a new one (see photo below), however the current shield does not have the text Interstate on it as seen here.
Photos taken approaching and along the path of I-785 between the Greensboro Loop along US 29. (* Newest)
*The ground mounted 1 Mile advance sign on US 29 North approaching the Greensboro Loop, courtesy of David Gallo.
*The 3/4 and 1/2 Mile overhead advance signs on US 29 North approaching the Greensboro Loop, courtesy of David Gallo.
A 1/2 mile advance on the C/D lanes of the Greensboro Loop exit for US 29 North. The section up to the Hicone Road exit is up to interstate standards (and I-785 does not officially end until the end of the ramp, see the End I-785 sign in the distance).
A 1/4 mile advance sign for the Hicone Road exit, notice the speed limit drops to 55 prior to the off-ramp.
Signage at the Hicone Road exit includes a 1 1/2 Mile advance for Reedy Fork Parkway, but no exit number due to the non-limited access nature of US 29 for the next 11 miles.
A Future I-785 sign prior to the Reedy Fork Parkway exit, this is going to be replaced as part of the Reedy Fork Parkway interchange project.
*A year later, doesn't appear the sign has changed,but it's now behind some concrete barriers, photo by David Gallo.
Construction prior to the Reedy Fork Parkway exit. They appear to be building a new bridge, presumably up to Interstate standards, this project is due to be completed in late 2024.
*That date may be optimistic in that a year later only part of the bridge has been constructed over US 29, photo by David Gallo.
*This is a new Future I-785 corridor sign that has appeared along US 29 North in 2023, photo by David Gallo.
The 1 Mile advance sign for the NC 150 exit. This exit is surrounded be cross street intersections.
The NC 150 exit sign. Again no exit number.
The 1/2 Mile advance sign for the Benaja Road exit.
The exit sign for the Benaja Road exit. The last exit without a number.
The 3/4 Mile advance sign for the Business US 29 exit. With a cross street prior to the exit ramp.
Two Speed Limit 70 signs after the last cross street marks the beginning of the Interstate quality highway in Reidsville.
The Future I-785 sign before Reedy Creek Parkway on US 29 North, prior to current construction. Photo by David Johnson in July 2020.
The 1 Mile advance sign for the Hicone Road exit on US 29 (Future I-785) South approaching the Greensboro Loop in December 2017, photo by Strider
The 1/2 Mile advance sign for the Hicone Road exit sits beyond a construction related VMS sign on US 29 South in December 2017, photo by Strider.
Approaching the Greensboro Loop with the future ramps to and from I-840 under construction in December 2017, photo by Strider.
A closer look at the future flyover ramp from I-840 East/Greensboro Loop to US 29/Future I-785 North in December 2017, photo by Strider.
The I-785 South exit sign with space for an I-840 shield when the Greensboro Loop is completed, taken in December 2017, photo by Strider.