Future I-685 in North Carolina Gains Supporters

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Updated Jul 1, 2022
illustration of shield for future I-685 in North Carolina
The infrastructure bill designates U.S. 421 between I-85 and I-95 as a "high priority corridor" for a future I-685. Some hope to extend that designation to Wimington.
NC Carolina Core

Momentum is gaining on a proposal to build a new interstate in North Carolina.

The proposed I-685, if approved, would be designated on U.S. Highway 421 between I-85 in Greensboro and I-95 in Dunn. Local leaders in the Wilmington area are also working to get that designation extended down U.S. 421 to the coast.

On June 29, the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a resolution asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to extend the I-685 designation from Dunn to Wilmington, according to Fox Wilmington news station.

The plan for a future I-685 between Greensboro and Dunn got a big boost in the $1 trillion infrastructure law signed last year. The law names upgrading U.S. 421 to interstate status as a “High Priority Corridor.” That means the NCDOT can request the interstate designation from the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, according to NC Carolina Core, an economic development organization for the state’s central region. The “Carolina Core” in its name refers to a more than 120-mile stretch of U.S. 421 that includes Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Fayetteville.

Supporters of the corridor see it as providing an interstate link between two of the state’s busiest highways and boosting economic development in the region.

“This is an important step in a lengthy process to secure a game-changing future interstate designation for Highway 421 in the Carolina Core, which will not only increase our economic competitiveness, but will further enhance safety and mobility throughout the region,” said Michael Fox, president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, after the route was added in the infrastructure bill.

The request to add the Dunn-to-Wilmington section of the designation would extend the corridor 85 more miles.  

Designating U.S. 421 as an interstate would require widening it and other improvements.

road map with possible route of future I-685 in central North Carolina along U.S. 421The map above shows a possible future route of I-685 between Greensboro and Dunn.NC Carolina Core