The so-called “Carolina Core” is one step closer to adding another interstate shield to the region, thanks to language included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Joe Biden Monday.
Business and civic leaders within the region are partnering with local, state and federal officials to designate part of Highway U.S. 421 as a future interstate in an effort to further spur economic growth and make the region even more competitive on a global stage.
“A critical component in Sanford and Lee County’s recent economic development success has been our highly strategic location at the epicenter of an abundant and skilled labor shed encompassing both the Carolina Core and RTP region,” said Jimmy Randolph, CEO of Sanford Area Growth Alliance. “With the designation of the U.S. Highway 421 corridor as a high priority corridor in the federal infrastructure bill, our long-standing goal of interstate connectivity with both I-85 and I-95 via I-685 is one step closer to reality, further strengthening our competitiveness for both talent and supply chain partners seeking convenient access to the megasites of the Carolina Core.”
Instrumental to the inclusion of this language in the federal infrastructure legislation were U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. This legislation marks important progress, listing U.S. 421 from the interchange with Interstate Route 85 in Greensboro to the interchange with Interstate Route 95 in Dunn as a “High Priority Corridor.” This measure will allow the North Carolina Department of Transportation to request a future interstate designation through the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. If approved, NCDOT will then place signs notifying the public that I-685 is a future interstate corridor.
“Future I-685 here in central North Carolina is another reminder that we are ‘the good roads state,’” said Michael Smith, President of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation. “We appreciate all of the support on this effort here in the Carolina Core. We look forward to continuing to build on this collaboration with our neighboring communities.”
Over the last three years, local partners in the Carolina Core have been collectively rallying behind the future interstate designation for Highway 421, which will further enhance the region’s robust transportation network, while providing the vital connection of I-95 with I-40 and I-85. This designation will provide direct connections between large population centers and improve access to Fort Bragg, aiding in national defense and during natural disasters.
Seven counties along the route have unanimously passed resolutions of support endorsing Future I-685. The region’s Metropolitan and Rural Planning Organizations have also given the green light in support of the future interstate designation.
The Carolina Core is a 120-plus mile stretch of central North Carolina from west of Winston-Salem to Fayetteville encompassing Greensboro and High Point, all along U.S. 421. The Carolina Core is not confined by traditional borders. Instead, boundaries are built by the assets that make the region a globally competitive market – a talent pool of more than 2 million people, access to 30+ colleges and universities, four certified megasites, urban research parks and more. To learn more, visit NCCarolinaCore.com.