More miles means more connections

RTA members and partners,

A major transportation project — the longest beltway in North Carolina — is coming ever closer to completion.

Our 540 beltway in Wake County, which will be 70 miles long when the last segment opens later this decade, continues to move forward.

In a nutshell, more miles means more connections — and growing connectivity for our growing metro area.

Here are some numbers to provide a sense of the progress.

Currently around 42 miles of I-540 and NC 540 are open in northern and western Wake County. That represents around 60% of the beltway’s total future length.

The Southern Wake freeway will open later this summer, adding around 18 miles of new freeway to the Triangle area. This will nearly double the length of the existing Toll NC 540/885 Triangle Expressway network.

RTA is hosting a field visit on Thursday, May 23rd to preview this phase. When this segment is finished, that will mean that 85% of the beltway will be open to travelers.

This week, on Thursday, May 16, will mark the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Eastern Wake freeway, which will open to traffic in less than five years. This final segment, which will link with existing I-540 at I-87, represents the last ten miles of the 540 beltway encircling the capital county. Please email Jacob Rigg if you would like to attend the ceremony.

To provide a sense of the scale of a completed 540:  The entire multimodal freeway will be around 70 miles in length. That is essentially the same length as Interstate 40 travels between the I-40/85 split in central Orange County and the I-40/I-95 junction in southwestern Johnston County.

Here is an interesting new Triangle Business Journal article about the potential and expected impact of 540 on both transportation and land use.

Looking ahead means moving faster.

Complete 540 is an outstanding project for the future of this region. It also serves as a cautionary tale as to the urgency to move transportation projects faster. The Eastern Wake Freeway, which will be around 10 miles long when it opens in 2028, will end up costing almost as much as almost-open Southern Wake Freeway, which is about 18 miles in length — just due to the inflation, supply chain, and related issues over the past 4-5 years.

Kudos to the NCDOT, the NC Turnpike Authority, and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization for continuing to develop our essential multimodal freeway system in the metropolitan Triangle and across North Carolina.


Let’s get moving,
Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA executive director





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