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.
Excellent work, many decades in the making.
Now get to work on designating US 1 as I-87
So let me get this straight. I’m all excited because we’re going to get signs along 421 that say “Future Interstate 685”?
Back in the 70’s when US 421 was upgraded it was supposed to be limited access from Siler City to Greensboro. Greensboro Congressmen prevailed in the NC DOT and US DOT to keep local access so that you could more easily get to the golf course at Forest Oaks and into Liberty, etc. This prevented a designation of the highway as limited access hurting economic development from Eastern Alamance County to Sanford. Of course why would the Triad want any competition?
People at the City of Sanford started trying to get the 421 corridor designated as Interstate 42 over 30 years ago. The sections from I-85 to Sanford are easy – you just need a few overpasses. The real trick is the slog through Harnett County to get to I-95. That should be one hell of show in Harnett as they fight over a final path with vested interests trying to keep traffic on 421 and 401.
There is a real dearth of local history about Lee County from the 50’s to the 90’s. If this was better known, new comers would understand the area better.
No, the signs aren’t that exciting. The good part is the business that the interstate will bring. That, and we will be 20 minutes closer to Wilmington and the area beaches.
Are you taking historical snd cultural landmarks into consideration for avoidance?
There are no historical or cultural landmarks in the way from Greensboro to current terminus between Jonesboro and Broadway. As to what is in Harnett, the NC DOT by law takes that into consideration and will for Harnett plus I am sure there will be a million public hearings.
There are only two suitable corridors from Swanns Station or Broadway to an area South of Dunn in order to hit 95. You have to go either north or south of the Upper Little River until you are ready to cross US 401 somewhere south of Lillington.
That’s farmland so missing something built is historic or cultural should be easy. What is not easy is that Harnett County water is everywhere there and the soils can easily accept septic tanks on half acre or less lots. Harnett has already been inundated by residential housing that pressures farmland out of existence but Harnett County made that choice 30 years ago.
I expect it will run south of Broadway through the Mamers area. Then south of Lillington, and on to Dunn. Not much but Farmland between here and there.