Interstate 85 in North Carolina

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Interstate 85 marker

Interstate 85
Route information
Maintained by NCDOT
Length:234.6 mi[1] (377.6 km)
Existed:1958 – present
Major junctions
South end: I‑85 at the SC line near Blacksburg, SC
  I‑485 in Charlotte (twice)
I‑77 / US 21 in Charlotte
I‑85 Bus. / US 29 / US 52 / US 70 near Lexington
I‑74 / US 311 near Archdale
I‑73 / US 421 in Greensboro
I‑40 in Greensboro
US 15 / US 501 in Durham
US 1 in Henderson
North end: I‑85 at the VA line near Bracey, VA
Counties:Cleveland, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Davidson, Randolph, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville, Vance, Warren
Highway system
NC 84NC 86
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This article is about the section of Interstate 85 in North Carolina. For the entire length of the highway, see Interstate 85.

Interstate 85 marker

Interstate 85
Route information
Maintained by NCDOT
Length:234.6 mi[1] (377.6 km)
Existed:1958 – present
Major junctions
South end: I‑85 at the SC line near Blacksburg, SC
  I‑485 in Charlotte (twice)
I‑77 / US 21 in Charlotte
I‑85 Bus. / US 29 / US 52 / US 70 near Lexington
I‑74 / US 311 near Archdale
I‑73 / US 421 in Greensboro
I‑40 in Greensboro
US 15 / US 501 in Durham
US 1 in Henderson
North end: I‑85 at the VA line near Bracey, VA
Counties:Cleveland, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Davidson, Randolph, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville, Vance, Warren
Highway system
NC 84NC 86

In the U.S. state of North Carolina, Interstate 85 (I-85) scales the state for 234.6 miles (377.6 km) from the South Carolina border to the Virginia border. As the second-longest interstate in the state (behind Interstate 40), it provides an important link between the cities of Atlanta, Greenville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C..

Route description[edit]

I-85 enters the state from Cherokee County, South Carolina near Grover in Cleveland County, which is part of the Charlotte metropolitan area. After only a few miles, the highway enters Gaston County.

Near Kings Mountain, I-85 turns from a northeast trajectory to an eastward one and goes through Gastonia, where it widens from four to six lanes. It stays at six lanes until it reaches Belmont, where the highway widens again to eight lanes.

The highway crosses the Catawba River just before entering Charlotte. It passes north of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and goes by a number of retail centers before turning northeastward again just west of Uptown Charlotte. The highway bypasses the downtown area, but several exits do provide access to the area. A partial wrong-way interchange exists at the exit with Interstate 77 north of Uptown.

The highway actually lies within the city limits of Charlotte for most of its route through Mecklenburg County. As a result, none of the exit signs list "Charlotte" as a destination for the intersecting routes. This can be confusing to motorists not familiar with the region, who often don't realize that they are actually within the city limits of Charlotte when searching for an exit that will take them to Bank of America Stadium, Time Warner Cable Arena, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, or other destinations in Uptown. The route through Charlotte traverses a heavily commercialized section in the northern portion of the city that is more suburban than urban in character, with light industry such as truck terminals, warehouses, small manufacturing facilities, and small office parks lining the highway. It also passes by the University City area and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

After Charlotte, I-85 continues northeastward into Cabarrus County, passing through the cities of Concord and Kannapolis. It drops from eight to four lanes between exit 55 (near Concord and Huntersville) and exit 68 near the Rowan County town of China Grove, at which point it increases to eight lanes again.

Approximately 70 miles (110 km) northeast of the Charlotte area is the Triad area, anchored by the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point. I-85 bypasses High Point and also largely bypasses Greensboro. Up until February 2004, I-85 went through the heart of Greensboro and joined Interstate 40 near downtown. Today, I-85 is routed along the Greensboro Urban Loop and meets I-40 east of downtown. Its former route is now known as Business 85.

Interstates 85 and 40 remain joined as they continue eastward to the Triangle region, anchored by the cities of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. West of Durham near Hillsborough, the two highways split, with I-40 heading southeast through Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh while I-85 continues eastward through Durham, then northeastward as it exits the city. It takes on a more suburban character once it leaves Durham, bypassing Oxford and Henderson before crossing into Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

Alternate names[edit]

Though the highway is commonly known as "Interstate 85" or "I-85" throughout the state, the highway does have other known names it uses locally in areas.


I-40/85 through Burlington
I-85 passing through Durham

Parts of Interstate 85 were already constructed before federal aid was available in the 1950s, as the state had been constructing sections of the Interstate Highway System since 1949. The Lexington Bypass north of Lexington - which at the time was signed U.S. 29 and U.S. 70 - is now a part of Business I-85.[8]

One planned road was the Salisbury bypass, 15 miles (24 km) long with a $1 million 880-foot (270 m) twin-span bridge over the Yadkin River. Construction on the bridge started in 1955 (this date is shown on a plaque, and most sources have used the date), but the lanes were not as wide as federal standards required, and the road had a sharp curve north of the bridge. Both of these characteristics saved money.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided for 90 percent federal funding of highways that would become part of the Interstate Highway System, and the N.C. Highway Commission used the funds to build the rest of the highway, which opened as I-85 in 1958. The bridge, finished a year earlier, was "grandfathered" despite not meeting standards. Also designated as I-85 was the bypass around Charlotte.[9]

Another section of I-85 opened to traffic on September 9, 1958 when an 11.3-mile (18.2 km) stretch in Mecklenburg County was opened.

The year 1960 saw several sections of the highway open to traffic:[8]

By 1965, I-85 from the South Carolina border to Charlotte was complete, while it took until 1970 for the section between Charlotte and Durham to be completed. However, the "Temporary 85" designation would remain on the segment between Lexington and Greensboro until 1984 because there were too many access roads. That year, a new six-lane section opened, resulting in the "Temporary 85" designation to be dropped.[10]

Since its completion, many widening projects have been undertaken on I-85, particularly along the stretch of highway between Gastonia and Durham. By 1988, widening I-85 to six lanes from Greensboro to Burlington was being considered.[11] The plan was later changed to eight lanes.[12] The $175 million project began in 1989. With the opening of a 2.3-mile (3.7 km) section in Alamance County on November 23, 1994, 21 miles (34 km) of I-85/I-40 were eight lanes. An additional 14 miles (23 km) were to be ready by 1996, giving the interstate eight lanes all the way to where I-40 turned southward at Hillsborough.[13]

In addition, Interstate 85 was relocated in 2004, south of Greensboro, forming part of the Greensboro Urban Loop, allowing through traffic to bypass that city's downtown area.[citation needed] Between 2004 and 2008, I-85 was widened to eight lanes around Salisbury.[9]

The I-85 Corridor Improvement Project, located in Rowan County and Davidson County, was a two-phase project to replace the narrow bridge over the Yadkin River and widen the freeway from four to eight lanes.[14] In the first phase, all traffic from the old bridge moved to a new $201 million bridge in August 2012.[9] On March 9, 2013, all eight lanes of the I-85 bridge opened to the public.[15] The project finished eight months ahead of schedule and $44 million under budget.[16]

From May 2010 through April 2014, I-85 was widened from four to eight lanes between exit 49 (near Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills Mall) and Exit 55.[17]


In April 2014, the N.C. Department of Transportation announced plans to widen I-85 from four to eight lanes from north of N.C. 73 (Exit 55) to north of Lane Street (Exit 63) near the Cabarrus-Rowan county border. Work could begin in less than a year. Construction is scheduled to be completed by December 2017.[18] When finished, that will leave I-85 in North Carolina with at least six lanes of highway between Exits 10 (US 29 north / US 74 – Kings Mountain, Shelby) and 164 (I-40 in Hillsborough), except for approximately five miles from Exit 63 to Exit 68 (US 29 / NC 152 – China Grove, Rockwell).

Another construction project that is part of the I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop, located in Mecklenburg County, will reconstruct the I-485 interchange (exit 48) to a fully directional interchange and widen the freeway from 6-lanes to 8-lanes from I-485 to Bruton Smith Boulevard/Concord Mills Boulevard. Currently, the entire project is expected to be completed in 2015 and at budget.[19]

Auxiliary routes in North Carolina[edit]

Business Loop 85.svgInterstate 85 BusinessLexington, High Point, and GreensboroBusiness loopExpressway grade from Lexington-High Point, freeway grade in Greensboro
I-285.svgInterstate 285Winston-SalemConnectorFuture, currently under construction
I-485.svgInterstate 485CharlotteBeltwayMostly completed beltway
I-785.svgInterstate 785Greensboro and DanvilleSpurCurrently a 2.21-mile (3.56 km) stub in eastern Guilford County; to be extended
I-885.svgInterstate 885DurhamConnectorProposed designation along NC 147 and US 70

Exit list[edit]

ClevelandState line0.00.0 I‑85 south – SpartanburgContinuation into South Carolina
 1.82.92 NC 216 – Kings Mountain National Military Park
 3.65.84 US 29 southSouth end of US 29 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance
 4.87.75Dixon School Road
Kings Mountain7.612.28 NC 161 – Kings Mountain
Gaston10.016.110 US 29 north / US 74 – Kings Mountain, ShelbyNorth end of US 29 overlap; signed as exits 10A (north/east) and 10B (west)
Bessemer City12.820.613Edgewood Road – Bessemer City
Gastonia14.523.314 NC 274East Bessemer City, West Gastonia
17.027.417 US 321 – Gastonia, Lincolnton
19.030.619 NC 7East Gastonia
19.731.720 NC 279 (New Hope Road) – Dallas
20.633.221Cox Road – Ranlo
Lowell22.335.922Main Street – Cramerton, Lowell
23.237.323 NC 7 – Lowell, McAdenville
Belmont25.741.426Belmont–Mount Holly Road – Belmont, Mount HollyTo Belmont Abbey College
26.943.327 NC 273 – Belmont, Mount Holly
Mecklenburg 29.447.329Sam Wilson RoadTo U.S. National Whitewater Center
 30.348.830 I‑485 to I‑77 – Pineville, StatesvilleSigned southbound as exits 30B (north) and 30A (south)
Charlotte32.051.532Little Rock Road
33.253.433Billy Graham ParkwayCharlotte/Douglas International Airport
34.755.834 NC 27 (Freedom Drive) / Tuckaseegee Road
35.457.035Glenwood Drive
36.258.336 NC 16 (Brookshire Boulevard) to US 74 east – Downtown Charlotte
37.860.837Beatties Ford Road – Johnson C. Smith University
38.261.538 I‑77 / US 21 – Statesville, Columbia
38.862.439Statesville Avenue / Statesville Road
40.565.240Graham Street
41.366.541Sugar Creek Road
42.368.142 To US 29 to NC 49 (North Tryon Street)Northbound exit and southbound entrance
43.069.243 To NC 49 / University City BoulevardTo Ikea Boulevard
44.571.645 NC 24 (W.T. Harris Boulevard)Signed as exits 45A (east) and 45B (west)
46.274.446Mallard Creek Church RoadSigned northbound as exits 46A (east) and 46B (west)
47.576.448 I‑485 south – Rock Hill
CabarrusConcord49.279.249Bruton Smith Boulevard / Concord Mills BoulevardTo Concord Mills and Charlotte Motor Speedway
51.883.452Poplar Tent RoadDDI[20]
53.686.354George W. Liles Parkway / Kannapolis Parkway
55.088.555 NC 73 – Concord, HuntersvilleTo Rowan-Cabarrus Community College South Campus; DDI [21]
58.093.358 US 29 / US 601 south – Kannapolis, ConcordSouth end of US 601 overlap
Kannapolis59.996.460Dale Earnhardt Boulevard / Copperfield Boulevard
62.5100.663Lane Street – Kannapolis
RowanChina Grove68.0109.468 US 29 / NC 152 – China Grove, Rockwell
 70.4113.370Webb Road
 71.5115.171Peeler Road
 72.3116.472Peach Orchard Road
Salisbury73.7118.674Julian Road
74.5119.975 US 601 north (Jake Alexander Boulevard)North end of US 601 overlap; to Rowan–Cabarrus CC North Campus
76.0122.376 US 52 south (Innes Street) – Albemarle, SalisburySouth end of US 52 overlap; formerly signed as exits 76A (south) and 76B (north)
Spencer79.0127.179Andrews Street – Spencer, East Spencer
80.4129.481Long Ferry Road – Spencer
Yadkin River82.2132.3Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge
Davidson 82.7133.182 US 29 south / US 70 west / NC 150 east – SpencerPermanently closed as of April, 2010[14][22][23][24]
 83.1133.783 NC 150Permanently closed as of May, 2013[14][23][24]
 83.4134.284 US 29 south / US 70 west to NC 150 – SpencerSouth end of US 29 and west end of US 70 overlap
 84.4135.885Clark RoadPermanently closed as of November, 2012[25]
 85.5137.686Belmont Road
 87.2140.387 I‑85 Bus. north / US 29 north / US 52 north / US 70 east – Lexington, Winston-SalemNorth end of US 29/US 52 and east end of US 70 overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance
 88.0141.688 NC 47 to US 52 – High Rock Lake, Linwood
Lexington91.1146.691 NC 8 – Lexington, Southmont
93.7150.894Old US 64
96.0154.596 US 64 – Asheboro, Lexington
Thomasville101.5163.3102Lake Road
103.4166.4103 NC 109 – Thomasville
RandolphTrinity105.5169.8106Finch Farm Road
107.5173.0108Hopewell Church Road – Trinity
Archdale111.0178.6111Main Street – Archdale, Downtown High Point
Guilford112.7181.4113A NC 62 – Archdale
113.4182.5113B-C I‑74 / US 311 – Asheboro, Winston-SalemSigned as exits 113B (east) and 113C (west)
Greensboro118.1190.1118 I‑85 Bus. south / US 29 south / US 70 west – High PointSouth end of I-85 Bus./US 29/US 70 (west) overlap
119.5192.3119Groometown Road to Grandover ParkwaySigned as exit 122A southbound
120.0193.1120A I‑85 Bus. north / US 29 north / US 70 east – GreensboroNorth end of I-85 Bus./US 29/US 70 (east) overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance
120.4193.8120B I‑73 north / US 421 north to I‑40 west – Winston-SalemSigned as exit 121 southbound; north end of US 421 overlap
121.7195.9122 I‑73 south / US 220 – Asheboro, GreensboroSouthbound exit and northbound entrance; signed as exits 122B (south) and 122C (north)
123.7199.1124South Elm–Eugene Street
126.0202.8126 US 421 south – SanfordSigned as exits 126A (US 421 South) and 126B (Greensboro); south end of US 421 overlap
128.2206.3128Alamance Church Road
130.2209.5129Youngs Mill Road
132.0212.4131 I‑40 west / I‑85 Bus. south to US 70 – Greensboro, Winston-SalemWest end of I-40 overlap; hidden north I-785 and west I-840
McLeansville133.3214.5132Mount Hope Church Road
Whitsett136.3219.4135Rock Creek Dairy Road
138.6223.1138 NC 61 – Gibsonville
AlamanceBurlington141.5227.7140University Drive – ElonTo Elon University
142.5229.3141Huffman Mill Road
144.2232.1143 NC 62 – Downtown Burlington, Alamance
146.3235.4145 NC 49 – Downtown Burlington, Liberty
Graham148.0238.2147 NC 87 – Graham, Pittsboro
149.0239.8148 NC 54 – Chapel Hill, Carrboro
Haw River150.8242.7150Jimmie Kerr Road – Haw River, Roxboro
Mebane153.2246.6152Trollingwood Road
154.0247.8153 NC 119 – Mebane
155.5250.3154Mebane–Oaks Road – Mebane
Orange 158.2254.6157Buckhorn Road
Efland161.3259.6160Mount Willing Road – Efland
161.9260.6161 To US 70 to NC 86 north (U.S. 70 Connector)
Hillsborough164.0263.9163 I‑40 east – RaleighEast end of I-40 overlap
165.2265.9164Old NC 86Hillsborough
166.5268.0165 NC 86 – Chapel Hill, Hillsborough
US 70 west / US 70 Bus. east to NC 751 – Duke University
West end of US 70 overlap; to Bennett Place
DurhamDurham173.3278.9172 NC 147 south – Downtown Durham, Research Triangle ParkNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; to North Carolina Central University
174.2280.3173Cole Mill Road
US 15 south / US 501 south to US 70 Bus. to NC 751 / Hillsborough Road – Chapel Hill
South end of US 15/US 501 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance
175.3282.1174BHillandale Road
176.0283.2175 NC 157 (Guess Road)To NC School of Science & Math and Duke Homestead
177.2285.2176 US 501 north (Duke Street) / Gregson Street – RoxboroNorth end of US 501 overlap; signed northbound as exits 176A (Gregson St) and 176B (Roxboro)
US 15 Bus. south / US 501 Bus. (Roxboro Street) / NC 55 east (Avondale Drive)
To North Carolina Central University
179.2288.4178 US 70 east – RDU Airport, RaleighEast end of US 70 overlap
180.6290.6179East Club Boulevard
181.3291.8180Glenn School Road
Gorman183.0294.5182Red Mill Road
184.5296.9183Redwood Road
Granville 186.7300.5186 US 15 north – Creedmoor, ButnerNorth end of US 15 overlap; signed northbound as exits 186A (US 15) and 186B (Butner)
Butner189.7305.3189Gate Two Road – Butner
192.0309.0191 NC 56 – Butner, Creedmoor
 202.8326.4202 US 15 – Oxford, Clarksville
Oxford205.1330.1204 NC 96 – Oxford
207.5333.9206 US 158 – Oxford, Roxboro
Vance 210.6338.9209Poplar Creek RoadTo Vance–Granville Community College
Henderson213.0342.8212Ruin Creek Road
US 158 Byp. west / Dabney Drive
West end of US 158 overlap
215.5346.8214 NC 39 – Downtown Henderson
US 158 Byp. east / Parham Road
East end of US 158 overlap
218.0350.8217Satterwhite Point RoadTo Satterwhite Point
219.0352.4218 US 1 south – RaleighSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
Middleburg221.0355.7220 US 1 / US 158 / Fleming Road – Norlina
WarrenManson224.5361.3223Manson Road
 226.8365.0226Ridgeway Road
 229.7369.7229Oine Road
 233.8376.3233 US 1 / US 401 – Wise, Norlina
State line234.6377.6 I‑85 north – PetersburgContinuation into Virginia
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Google Inc. "Interstate 85". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc.,-79.595947&spn=3.733058,7.13562&sll=36.543588,-78.18411&sspn=0.001804,0.003484&geocode=FcaeGAIdBUgl-w%3BFbGeLQIdbQFX-w&mra=me&mrsp=1,0&sz=19&t=p&z=8. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  2. ^ "NCDOT: NC Blue Star Memorial Marker Locations". Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities". Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  4. ^ Busbee, Jay (May 26, 2013). "There is, alas, a speed limit on the Jeff Gordon Expressway". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  5. ^ Flores, Adrianne; Brad Broders (October 19, 2011). "Mecklenburg County Commissioners approve 'Jeff Gordon Expressway'". Raleigh, NC: News 14 Carolina. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  6. ^ Lyttle, Steve (May 24, 2012). "Ready for the Jeff Gordon Expressway?". Gulfport, MS: Sun Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  7. ^ "Flickr - I-85 Jeff Gordon Expressway Ceremony". Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  8. ^ a b North Carolina Department of Transportation. Facts: Interstate 85, Page 1. NCDOT Web site. Accessed April 21, 2007.[dead link]
  9. ^ a b c Turner, Walter R. (2012-08-05). "The mysterious Yadkin River bridge". Salisbury Post. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  10. ^ North Carolina Department of Transportation. Facts: Interstate 85, Page 2. NCDOT Web site. Accessed April 21, 2007.
  11. ^ "I-85 Traffic Flow May Be Smoother". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC). Associated Press. 1988-12-16. p. 5B. 
  12. ^ "North Carolina - Wider I-85 Recommended". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC). 1989-01-27. p. 2B. 
  13. ^ Hall, David A. (1994-11-23). "Interstate 40/85 Freeway Isn't Free of Construction". Greensboro News & Record (Greensboro, NC). p. A1. 
  14. ^ a b c "NCDOT: I-85 Corridor Improvement Project". Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  15. ^ "NCDOT to open new I-85 Yadkin River bridge on Friday". 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  16. ^ Retrieved 2014-04-17.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Lyttle, Steve (2012-04-03). "Part of widened I-85 to open this weekend". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  18. ^ Lyttle, Steve (2012-04-12). "DOT awards contract for I-85 widening in Cabarrus County". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  19. ^ "NCDOT: I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop". Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  20. ^ Lyttle, Steve (September 8, 2014). "Diverging diamond opens on Poplar Tent Road". Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Observer. Retrieved September 8, 2014. 
  21. ^ Marusak, Joe (February 4, 2012). "New interchange planned for bottlenecked I-77 exit". Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Observer. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  22. ^ " Safety concerns lead to closing of Wil-Cox Bridge; no timeframe on reopening". Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "NC 150 Route Change (2012-03-01)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. March 1, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b North Carolina Department of Transportation (January 4, 2012) (PDF). NC 150 Route Change (2012-01-04) (Map). Retrieved May 26, 2013.
  25. ^ Staff (July 27, 2011). "NCDOT to close Clark Road entrance and exits ramps on I-85 north, section of Snider Kines Road in Davidson County starting Monday". Project Details. North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing

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