Another Interstate for the Triangle — and for our future

The Triangle region is finally coming into its own in terms of Interstate access — and in 2022 we will get two more.

Interstate 42 will traverse along the US 70 freeway from its junction with I-40 (exit 309) at the Wake/Johnston county line, heading east near Clayton and towards Smithfield, Selma. I-42 will formally receive the designation upon the posting of signs, likely later this year. Another, longer segment of I-42, also along the US 70 freeway at Goldsboro, will receive I-42 signs as well. The entire US 70 corridor east of Raleigh to Morehead City will eventually become Interstate 42, thanks to the cooperative efforts of NCDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and a number of partners.

I-885 — The Durham East End Connector, which we have often called the Triangle Connector to I-85 — will include a new segment of freeway in Durham opening this spring. When complete, I-885 will traverse between I-40 at Research Triangle Park and I-85 in northeast Durham. The opening will also allow a rethinking of both the existing Durham east-west freeway (NC 147) and the Business US 15-501 Roxboro/Mangum pair through Downtown Durham.

There are two more Interstates in the extended Triangle region worthy of our attention.

I-587 is a new designation for the US 264 freeway from Zebulon to Greenville. The segment from I-95 at Wilson to Greenville has already been approved for the new Interstate 587 status. I-587 will eventually commence at the current US 64/264 split in Zebulon in eastern Wake County.

I-685 will be the future Carolina Core freeway, along the US 421 corridor from Greensboro to Sanford to I-95 south of Benson. This is helpful both for the direct Interstate access for a number of Research Triangle area communities and counties including Chatham and Lee, and also because it will relieve through travel from Interstate 40. While the routing has not been finalized east of Sanford, perhaps the corridor could extend slightly east of I-95 and meet up with I-40 southeast of Benson for more streamlined access to the Port of Wilmington. Learn more about this corridor in a prior RTA blog here.

For many years the Research Triangle area only had I-85 and I-40 in the heart of our region, with I-95 serving eastern portions of our extended region, and I-440 Beltline. We have slowly added I-540 to our landscape, with I-87 from southeast Raleigh to Wendell a relatively recent addition.

Each new or newly-designated Interstate corridor will be a fully-controlled access roadway with bridges, ramps, and no cross streets or stoplights. Our Interstates are invariably among our safest roadways, and they attract economic development because of the quality of travel and the assurance of free-flow, reliable travel times outside of the most congested periods.

Our freeway system is vital for commerce, tourism, accessibility, and the network provides improved access to affordable housing and a variety of jobs via multiple current and future modes of transportation. In other words, our Interstates are vital for the future of our region and state, and we look forward to seeing and supporting their progress.

Let’s get moving,


Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director

RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation


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