Future, Future NC Interstates?

Some Other NC Interstate Possibilities

The following are some of the other interstates routes that have been suggested to NCDOT by officials or organizations, or by other groups and individuals, over the past 15 or so years. Though some have seemingly been rejected, others could become reality in the future. NCDOT has been studying how best to determine which highways would be the most ideal candidates to be future interstate routes.


NC Interstate 26 Shield Image, from Shields Up!Gulf Coast Strategic Highway, El Paso, TX to
Wilmington, NC; Proposed in 2006


In May 2006 the Gulf Coast Strategic Alliance, a Texas based lobbying group, announced a proposal to create a highway to link military bases in Texas to a port on the Atlantic coast, dubbed the "Gulf Coast Strategic Highway." The number they suggest for this highway is Interstate 14 and the port they chose to end the route at is Wilmington. An Interstate 14 corridor has previously been written into law (along with another corridor named Interstate 3) to run between Natchez. Mississippi and Augusta, Georgia based on a proposal originally endorsed by Republican Representative Max Burns from Georgia in 2004 (for more on the original Interstate 14 and 3 proposals see this I-14 article). Then Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was to introduce a bill in the Senate in the next few months to garner funds for the corridor.1 Though apparently NC senators have been apprised, there has been no comment by NCDOT on this proposal which, would apparently use some of the same corridors currently planned for I-74 and proposed for I-20 (or perhaps I-30, see below).


NC Interstate 226 Shield Image, from Shields Up!US 74 Freeway, I-26 to I-85; First Proposed in 2003 (New 4/13/23)


A report issued through the Gaston County Chamber of Commerce examining ways to improve the local economy in July 2003 suggested, as part of its recommendations to improve the Cleveland County infrastructure that US 74 between I-26 and I-85 be designated a 3di interstate (an I-x26 or I-x85, the I-226 number is my own idea, since there is a NC 226, perhaps I-426 would work better) once the US 74 bypass of Shelby has been completed. NCDOT has since committed to upgrading US 74 to interstate standards. Work started in July 2013 on the first of three projects to complete the US 74 Shelby Bypass were finished in September 2016, the remaining 2 segments completion dates are yet to be determined.2 The list of projects to be considered for the 2018-2027 State TIP included money for the remaining two projects plus for a project to upgrade US 74 from I-26 to Mooresboro to Interstate Standards.3 On February 24, 2020, the Polk County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the upgrading of US 74 to interstate status between I-26 and I-85 due to the need to improve freight movement and in-state access throughout southern North Carolina.4 On April 11, 2023 Congressman Chuck Edwards of NC's 11th District introduced a bill, HR 2551, that would designate US 74 between I-26 in Columbus and I-85 in King's Mountain as a Future Interstate. Rep. Patrick McHenry of the 10th District is a co-sponsor. “Having an interstate within county lines significantly increases companies’ interests in locating to these areas, opening the door to even greater economic opportunities in Western North Carolina,” stated Edwards in a press release. The bill would allow NCDOT to put up future interstate signs along the corridor through Cleveland, Gaston, Polk and Rutherford Counties while the route is being brought up to interstate standards. No specific route number is included in the bill which must first be reported favorably out of committee prior to any vote in the House.5 


NC Interstate 30 Shield Image, from Shields Up!US 74, from I-26 to I-85, I-85 and I-485 around Charlotte,
US 74 to Wilmington; Proposed in 2005

NCDOT in July 2005, at the urging of Andy Koeppel, a member of the Cape Fear Transportation Authority, said it would look into the suggestion that US 74 between I-26 and Wilmington be upgraded to an Interstate and designated Interstate 30. Koeppel, a commercial real estate agent, thinks that an interstate highway would improve commerce between Charlotte and Wilmington and be part of an important east-west national highway. I-30 would need to be routed along I-40 from its current end in Little Rock AR to I-26 in NC. I-30 would then follow current US 74 to Wilmington except around Charlotte where it would use I-485.6 There has been no word since 2005 on whether NCDOT saw any merit in this idea.


I-287 NC shield image from Shields Up!       US 264, US 64 (Future I-87) near Zebulon to US 13/NC 11 north of Greenville, then US 13/NC 11 from US 264 to US 64 (Future I-87) in Bethel;
First Proposed in 2012 as part of 'Quad-East Interstate Loop."
Supported by projects on NCDOT's potential STIP list in April 2016.

In early 2016 Congress approved a new transportation bill designating the corridor of US 64 from Raleigh to Williamston and US 17 from Williamston to Norfolk, VA as a Future Interstate. In May 2016 AASHTO assigned the designation of I-87 to this corridor. Earlier, in 2012, officials from Kinston, Greenville, Wilson and Goldsboro came together to support a proposal they called the "Quad-East Interstate Loop" as a way to encourage more commerce and business by having several highways in the area upgraded to freeways, including US 264 and US 13, and initially conceived as a continuation of Interstate 795.7,8 In April 2016, NCDOT released its list of potential projects to fund for its 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP). Among those projects on the list were the upgrades to interstate standards of US 264 from the Wilson County Line to the US 264 Bypass in Greenville (US 264 between I-95 and the Wilson County line is already interstate standard) and US 13/NC 11 from the US 264 Bypass to US 64 near Bethel.9 If the remainder of US 264 between US 64 (Future I-87) near Zebulon to I-95 was also brought up to interstate standards, the entire US 264 and US 13/NC 11 highway would be a good candidate for a Loop (even-number) route of I-87. I-287 is not an official number, but makes a logical choice since it would be the first auxiliary route off of I-87 and would use an even number since meets it it's parent in two places. On September 7, 2016, NCDOT announced it would seek interstate designation for US 264 from Zebulon to Greenville, probably as an I-87 Spur Route (e.g., I-187). If approved, it would not be out of the question that a future upgrade to US 13/NC 11 could bring about this total route, however some of the local officials who supported the plan were voted out of office in 2018.10


NC Interstate X85 Shield Image, from Shields Up! NC Interstate X40 Shield Image, from Shields Up!US 321, I-85 to I-40, Hickory; First proposed 2003


Both the Gaston County Economic Development report listed above in 2003 and a report prepared for the Centralina Council of Governments in 2004 suggested as ways to improve the economic viability of the region that US 321 from I-85 to I-40 at Hickory be designated an interstate spur of either I-40 or I-85.2,9


NC Interstate X85 Shield Image, from Shields Up!Garden Parkway; Proposed in 2003



The same Gaston County Economic Development report suggested as ways to improve the Gaston County Infrastructure that the Garden Parkway, a planned toll route from I-485 to US 321, be designated an I-85 spur.2 The NC Turnpike Authority which approved the route in 2010, does not seem to be interested in an Interstate designation for any of its facilities. The parkway proposal has now fallen out of favor due to its apparent cost and opposition from environmental groups.


Future I-685 from Carolina Core websiteMegasite Highway, US 421 from I-85 in Greensboro to I-95 in either

Dunn or (via NC 87 at Sanford) Fayetteville:

First Proposed in 2017 (Update 12/9/22)


Proposal of economic developer, Jed McMillan made to the NCDOT Board on August 3, 2017 in Greensboro. His interstate freeway (either and I-x85 or I-x95) would travel an upgraded US 421 between Greensboro and Fayetteville connecting 4 'megasites' (the Aerospace Center at the PTI Airport in Greensboro, the Greensboro-Randolph County project near Liberty, the Chatham Advanced Manufacturing site in Siler City, and the Moncure Megasite on US 1 in Chatham County). The NCDOT Board took no position on the proposal, nor did the Board Chair Mike Fox. Though he did comment that parts of US 421 would not be too hard to upgrade to an Interstate.11

On September 25, 2019, the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (GUAMPO) approved a resolution in support of giving US 421 interstate designation and bringing it up to interstate standards from Greensboro either to Dunn or Fayetteville, using the NC 87 corridor south of Sanford. The resolution notes that US 421 connects I-95 with I-40 and would provide a “valuable alternate route for military and freight traffic” as well as “additional evacuation routes and relief and recovery routes to the region.” The resolution noted that the NCDOT Board of Transportation had already passed its own resolution in support of upgrading US 421 between I-40 and I-95 to an interstate. Other MPOs along the corridor approved similar measures between 2019 and 2021.12

The infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November 2021 contained among its many provisions one added by NC Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis making US 421 from I-85 in Greensboro to I-95 in Dunn a 'High Priority Corridor.' This would be the first step in asking for a Future Interstate designation along the route, or part of the route.13 The route number supporters of the interstate have chosen is I-685. In its Spring 2022 meeting, AASHTO approved the Future I-685 designation, pending FHWA concurrence. Here's a map of the potential corridor published by the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization (TARPO), a voluntary association of local governments in Chatham, Lee, Moore, and Orange Counties, on November 18. Notice that there is still some indecision as to whether the route should follow US 421 all the way to I-95 or head south to Fayetteville via NC 87:

Image of map of planned I-685 corridor from TARPO transportation planning organization, November 2021



Image of NC I-x40 shield from Shields Up!Image of NC I-x95 shield from Shields Up!Jacksonville Interstate Spur

Proposed in 2018


Officials from Jacksonville, now the largest city in North Carolina without an interstate, along with having a military base, have proposed upgrading at least one of the routes into the city to connect to an interstate which could be either I-40 or I-795 (or Future I-42/US 70). The six routes suggested are US 258 to Kinston, NC 903 through Duplin County, NC 24 to I-40 or to I-95 Fayetteville, NC 24 and NC 11, US 17 to Wilmington, or US 17 to New Bern (US 70). The city's Transportation Advisory Committee were to meet in the spring of 2019 to discuss the route options, and then presumably get into contact with NCDOT about their plans.14


NC Interstate X40 Shield Image, from Shields Up!US 421 from I-40 West of Winston-Salem to Wilkesboro


                                                                   Proposed in 2022

Over the years, several road enthusiasts who visit this site have suggested that US 421 be designated an I-40 or I-77 spur from the intersection of I-40 and US 421 west of Winston-Salem to at least I-77 if not further west to Boone. The roadway has been marked as 'Alternate I-40' to aide traffic detouring around I-40 construction projects between Winston-Salem and Statesville. In October 2022 the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of US 421 between I-40 west of Winston-Salem and Wilkesboro be designated a future interstate highway corridor as an effort to boost economic development.15 An NCDOT spokesman did not dismiss the idea, but said there are currently no projects in development to upgrade US 421 to an Interstate. If this would happen, it most likely would have to be through Congressional action, since Wilkesboro and its surrounding area only have a population of about 20,000, to small for the FHWA to approve the city as an end point for an Interstate highway. Numbers proposed by the road enthusiasts community include I-340, or an I-77 spur route.