Interstate 40 marker

Interstate 40

I-40 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by NCDOT
Length420.21 mi[1] (676.26 km)
Existed1958[2]–present
Major junctions
West end I-40 at the Tennessee state line
Major intersections
East end US 117 / NC 132 in Wilmington
Location
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
CountiesHaywood, Buncombe, McDowell, Burke, Catawba, Iredell, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Wake, Johnston, Sampson, Duplin, Pender, New Hanover
Highway system
NC 39 NC 41

Interstate 40 (I-40) is a part of the Interstate Highway System that travels 2,556.61 miles (4,114.46 km) from Barstow, California, to Wilmington, North Carolina. In North Carolina, I-40 travels 420.21 miles (676.26 km) across the entirety of the state from the Tennessee state line along the Pigeon River Gorge to U.S. Route 117 (US 117) and North Carolina Highway 132 (NC 132) in Wilmington. I-40 is the longest Interstate Highway in North Carolina and is the only Interstate to completely span the state from west to east.[1]

Traveling from west to east, I-40 connects the three major regions of North Carolina—Western North Carolina, the Piedmont, and Eastern North Carolina. In the Piedmont region, I-40 connects the Piedmont Triad and Research Triangle metropolitan regions. Included in these regions are the cities of Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, and Winston-Salem which represent the second through fifth largest cities in the state, respectively. In addition, I-40 connects the cities of Asheville and Hickory in Western North Carolina, Wilmington in Eastern North Carolina, and many smaller communities along its route. The landscapes traversed by I-40 include the Blue Ridge Mountains, the foothills of western North Carolina, suburban communities, and the urban core of several Piedmont cities, along with eastern North Carolina farmland. There are five auxiliary Interstates in the state related to I-40: I-140, I-240, I-440, I-540, and I-840. I-40 formerly had one business loop which primarily ran through Winston-Salem and briefly was extended through Greensboro.

The freeway bears several names in addition to the I-40 designation. Throughout the state, the freeway is known as the Blue Star Memorial Highway, a name shared with multiple Interstates across the state. From the GuilfordAlamance county line to one mile (1.6 km) east of North Carolina Highway 54 (NC 54), in Graham, I-40 and Interstate 85 (I-85) is known as the Sam Hunt Freeway. From Orange County to Raleigh, I-40 is known as the Harriet Morehead Berry Freeway, the John Motley Morehead III Freeway, and the Tom Bradshaw Freeway. I-40 is the James Harrington Freeway from U.S. Route 70 (US 70) to Interstate 95 (I-95). In Duplin County, a section of I-40 is known as the Henry L. Stevens Jr. Highway. From the PenderNew Hanover county line to the eastern terminus of I-40, the freeway is known as the Michael Jordan Highway.

I-40 was an original Interstate Highway planned in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. In North Carolina, the original highway was to run from the Tennessee state line to Greensboro where the freeway would end at I-85. In 1958, the first section of completed Interstate Highway in the state was I-40 along the East–West Expressway in Winston-Salem. I-40 received two extension approvals; the first in 1969 to I-95, to be routed in or near Smithfield, and the second in 1984 to Wilmington. After 34 years since it first opened, the last section completed was the Winston-Salem Bypass in 1992. The highest point is at 2,786 feet (849 m), located at Swannanoa Gap, and the lowest point is at 15 feet (4.6 m), located at the PenderNew Hanover county line.

Route description

I-40 travels through several diverse regions in North Carolina, including the Great Smoky and Black mountains of Western North Carolina, the rural Foothills, the urban Piedmont, and the farmlands of Eastern North Carolina. All of I-40 is listed in the National Highway System, a network of roads important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.[3][4] I-40 is also designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway throughout the state.

Western North Carolina

I-40 enters North Carolina along the north banks of the Pigeon River at the foot of Snowbird Mountain. Winding in parallel with the river, I-40 goes through twin tunnels. When the tunnels opened in 1968, they were the first Interstate tunnels east of the Mississippi River. I-40 then proceeds through the Pigeon River Gorge for the next 16 miles (26 km). Just south of exit 7, I-40 uses another tunnel, for eastbound traffic only, through Hurricane Mountain.[5] The westbound lanes use a rock cut through Hurricane Mountain. A short distance after the tunnel is the North Carolina Welcome Center. Immediately afterward is Waterville Lake, where there are a few at-grade intersections in this location, used as service access for Walters Dam and the Harmon Den Wildlife Management Area. I-40 continues toward Asheville. I-40 then merges with US 74 (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). I-40 and US 74 encounter the I-26/I-240 interchange, sometimes called Malfunction Junction,[6] in the southwestern part of the city. The interchange is the current western terminus of I-240 and the historic terminus of I-26. I-40 then goes along the southside of Asheville, north of the Biltmore Estate toward Hickory.[7] I-240 and I-40 have another interchange before I-40 leaves the Asheville area.

I-40 crossing the Eastern Continental Divide in eastern Buncombe County
I-40 crossing the Eastern Continental Divide in eastern Buncombe County

Shortly after it leaves the Asheville area, I-40 encounters a steep grade, Old Fort Mountain, with winding roads that pose a hazard to truck traffic. There are several runaway truck ramps on this part of the highway. This stretch is about six miles (9.7 km) long. I-40 goes south of Black Mountain and Marion, and north of Conover.[8] There it crosses the Eastern Continental Divide and the southern tip of the Black Mountain range. When I-40 enters Hickory, it has a clover interchange with US 321. I-40 then heads south of Hickory and crosses the Catawba River.[9] I-40 enters Statesville north of the city. It has major interchanges with US 64 and US 21 before utilizing a clover interchange with I-77.

Piedmont region

I-40 heads northeast toward Winston-Salem passing Mocksville and Clemmons. When I-40 enters Winston-Salem, it has another major interchange, this time with Salem Parkway which carries US 421. This interchange gives access to downtown Winston-Salem. [10] Continuing through the Winston-Salem city limits, I-40 passes Hanes Mall and the commercial developments in the city. After passing the area, it has a cloverleaf interchange with I-285/US 52/NC 8.[11] I-74 exits off to the south while I-40 heads back northeast to meet up with US 421.[12] US 421 runs a concurrency with I-40 into Greensboro.[13][14][15]

Sunflowers along I-40
Sunflowers along I-40

I-40 heads into the Greensboro limits at the I-73/US 421/I-840 interchange. This interchange is the east end of the US 421 concurrency with I-40 and is also the planned western terminus of I-840.[16] From there, I-40 heads through southwestern Greensboro. I-40 passes Wendover Place and Four Seasons Town Centre before having another large interchange with US 220.[17] US 29/US 70 all merge into I-40/US 220 for one large concurrency one mile (1.6 km) after the interchange with US 220.[18] The road is generally a six-lane freeway throughout.[19]

This 2.5-mile (4.0 km) corridor with concurrent routes ends in the east at the US 29/US 70/US 220/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard junction. Both the beginning and ending interchanges of this corridor are quite unusual in design and are often operating at above full capacity, leading to frequent traffic jams and traffic incidents.[14][15][20]

I-40 through Greensboro officially bears the name Preddy Boulevard. The nickname "Death Valley" has been given to the area of I-40 where I-40 and Interstate 85 Business (I-85 Bus.) splits. The locals have given that area that name because of the high number of deaths due to car crashes in that area.[21][22] One major problem with the highway is that the US 29/US 70/US 220 southbound lanes merge from the right and exit to the left. Thus, through traffic on I-40 west and US 29 south (a major route from Virginia to Charlotte) must all merge to the other side of the freeway. A study conducted by state traffic engineers from May 1, 2006, to April 30, 2008, (the period between the I-85 relocation and I-40's relocation) concluded that "the Death Valley area" had an accident rate "higher than average for urban interstates ... but the [route] was safe anyway."[23] There were no fatalities during the study period, but a large number of rear-end collisions.[14][15][23]

I-40/I-85 through Burlington
I-40/I-85 through Burlington

I-40 merges with I-85 east of Greensboro. I-40 and I-85 have a 31-mile (50 km) concurrency through Guilford, Alamance, and Orange counties. The concurrency section uses I-85 exit numbers instead of I-40 exit numbers. The section goes south of Elon, Burlington, Graham, and Mebane. I-40 breaks ways from I-85 at exit 163, south of Hillsborough.[15][19]

After I-40 breaks away from I-85, it heads in a very southeasterly direction toward Chapel Hill. I-40 parallels NC 86 until NC 86 crosses I-40 at exit 266. I-40 is routed along northern Chapel Hill and then through southern Durham. I-40 enters the Research Triangle Park after an interchange with I-885 and NC 885. The Interstate varies in width, from four to eight lanes depending on the location. It serves as a major route between Raleigh, Cary, and Durham (the other being US 70). After leaving the Research Triangle area, I-40 has an interchange with I-540 near the Raleigh–Durham International Airport. Several I-40 exits serve Raleigh–Durham, including Aviation Parkway, Airport Boulevard, and I-540. I-40 continues to head southeast toward Downtown Raleigh. I-40 is routed north of Cary and south of Umstead State Park. At Wade Avenue, I-40 bears right to head south. It then has an interchange with I-440/US 1/US 64 at exits 293A and 293B. I-40 then runs a concurrency with US 64 along the southside of Raleigh. The concurrency ends at an interchange with I-87/I-440/US 64 at exit 301, where I-40 bears to the south.[14][15]

Eastern North Carolina

Beyond exit 301, I-40 follows a primarily south and southeasterly routing to Wilmington. It departs Raleigh to the south and runs along through eastern Garner between Jones Sausage Road (exit 303) and White Oak Road. I-40 meets US 70 and US 70 Business in Garner at exit 306. Additionally, I-40 begins to parallel NC 50 starting near exit 306 in Garner and continuing through Kenansville. I-40 and US 70 travel along a 4.1 miles (6.6 km) concurrency to exit 309 where US 70 diverges to the east toward Selma and New Bern. South of exit 309, I-40 leaves Wake County and enters into Johnston County. As the highway leaves suburban regions surrounding Raleigh, it interchanges with NC 42 (exit 312), NC 210 (exit 319), and NC 242 (exit 325) which provide access to Clayton, Angier, and Benson. I-40 travels to the east of Benson, crossing over US 301 but provides no access to the highway. Immediately south of US 301, I-40 meets I-95 at exit 328, a modified cloverleaf interchange.

I-40 continues southeast through rural Johnston County, meeting NC 96 (exit 334) north of Peacocks Crossroads. Approaching Newton Grove, I-40 leaves Johnston County and enters into Sampson County. I-40 travels along the southwestern side of Newton Grove, interchanging with NC 50 and NC 55 at exit 341 and US 701 at exit 343. US 13 crosses over I-40 in the vicinity of Newton Grove but there is not a dedicated interchange. I-40 continues southeast of Newton Grove through rural Sampson County. It meets US 117 Connector and NC 403 at exit 355 southwest of Faison, and I-40 begins to parallel US 117 near the exit. I-40 departs Sampson County and enters Duplin County approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of exit 355. It continues through Duplin County for approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) before meeting NC 24 and NC 24 Business (exit 364) west of Warsaw. At the interchange, NC 24 begins an 8.4 miles (13.5 km) concurrency with I-40 to the southeast. An interchange with US 117 (exit 369) is located south of Warsaw and I-40 begins to travel around Magnolia to the east. NC 24 departs the freeway at NC 903 (exit 373) which provides access to Kenansville. After the interchange, I-40 primarily turns to the south, bypassing Teachey, Rose Hill, and Wallace to the east. Interchanges with Charity Road (exit 380), NC 11 (exit 384), and NC 41 (exit 385) provide access to these towns and to US 117. I-40 begins to run parallel to the Northeast Cape Fear River and enters Pender County after crossing Rockfish Creek near Wallace.

Eastern terminus of I-40 at US 117 and NC 132 looking westbound.
Eastern terminus of I-40 at US 117 and NC 132 looking westbound.

The highway once again meets US 117, at an interchange south of Wallace and crosses to the western side of US 117. I-40 remains on the western side of US 117 for 5.6 miles (9.0 km) until it crosses over I-40 north of Burgaw. The highway bypasses Burgaw to the east, meeting NC 53 (exit 398) east of the town. Continuing south, I-40 once again meets NC 210 at exit 408 near Rocky Point and then crosses the Northeast Cape Fear River into New Hanover County where it picks up the name "Michael Jordan Freeway". I-40 passes to the east of Castle Hayne and interchanges with Holly Shelter Road at exit 412. An interchange with I-140 and NC 140 is located 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of Holly Shelter Road at exit 416. From I-140 and NC 140, I-40 continues south passing east of Olsen Park before turning to the southwest and meeting US 117 and NC 132 at exit 420. Eastbound I-40 runs concurrently with US 117 and NC 132 for 0.2 miles (0.32 km) beyond the exit, while westbound I-40 is concurrent with US 117 and NC 132 for approximately 12 mile (0.80 km) due to the design of the interchange. The eastern terminus of I-40 is located at US 117 and NC 132 north of Kings Grant Road in Wilmington. The highway continues south as North College Road toward US 74, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Carolina Beach.[14][15][24]

Dedicated and memorial names

The freeway bears several names in addition to the I-40 designation. Throughout the state, the freeway is known as the Blue Star Memorial Highway, a name shared with multiple Interstates across the state.[25] From the Guilford–Alamance county line to one mile (1.6 km) east of NC 54, in Graham, I-40/I-85 is known as the Sam Hunt Freeway. The freeway is known as the Harriet Morehead Berry Freeway through Orange County, named for a leader in the good roads movement in North Carolina.[26] Between US 15/US 501 in Chapel Hill to I-885/NC 885 in Durham, I-40 is known as the John Motley Morehead III Freeway who was a noted philanthropist and graduate from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. I-40 is the Dan K. Moore Freeway from Research Triangle Park to the Tom Bradshaw Freeway. The section is named after Dan K. Moore who was the 66th Governor of North Carolina. From the Wade Avenue Extension to US 70 in Garner, the freeway is known as the Tom Bradshaw Freeway, named after the 33rd Mayor of Raleigh. I-40 is the James Harrington Freeway from US 70 to I-95. In Johnston, south of I-95, and Sampson counties, I-40 is dedicated to Robert D. Warren Sr. who was a former State Director of Driver's Licenses and State Senator from the area. In Duplin County, a section of I-40 6.95 miles (11.18 km) north of NC 24 west of Warsaw to 6.95 miles (11.18 km) south of NC 24 is known as the Henry L. Stevens Jr. Highway, who was a commander of the American Legion and a Superior Court judge.[27] From the Pender–New Hanover county line to the eastern terminus of I-40, the freeway is known as the Michael Jordan Highway, named after the famous basketball player who grew up in Wilmington and was a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.[28][29] I-40 has also been given the name Tobacco Road by college sports fans, because the freeway links up the four North Carolina schools in the ACC.[30]

History

Authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, North Carolina was originally allocated 714 miles (1,149 km) for their share of the Interstate Highway System; 219 miles (352 km) of which was subsequently allocated for a route from the Tennessee state line, through Asheville and Winston-Salem, to Greensboro. Designated as I-40, it became the first Interstate in the state after opening on a completed three-mile-long (4.8 km) section in Winston-Salem in 1958. For the next 32 years, I-40 was constructed and extended twice to its current routing from the Pigeon River Gorge to Wilmington.[2][31]

Beginnings

The first major overland transportation corridors in North Carolina were the Indian trading paths. One of these, the Rutherford's Trace, followed the path of modern I-40.[32] In 1921, the North Carolina Highway System was established, with NC 10, nicknamed the "Central Highway", designated on the route between Asheville and Greensboro. By the time US 70 was established in 1926 and placed on concurrency on all of NC 10, nearly all of the route was either paved or oil-treated. After World War II, the federal government began planning on a new Interregional Highway system, as mandated by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, and released a proposed National System of Interstate Highways in 1947, which included a route that followed loosely to US 70 from the Tennessee state line to Greensboro.[33] After years of planning and the passing of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established the route between Tennessee and Greensboro, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved the I-40 designation in 1957.[34]

Interstate Highway era

In 1958, the first construction job in the country that was designated specifically for I-40 was in Haywood County, along the Pigeon River. That same year, the first two sections of I-40 opened: the first was the three-mile-long (4.8 km) East–West Expressway in Winston-Salem; the second was from US 421 in Kernersville to US 29/US 70 in Greensboro. In both cases, these first freeways were constructed a couple of years prior for US 158 and US 421, respectively, and did not benefit from the 1956 Act; as a result, in 1988, the state was able to convince the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to build the Winston-Salem Bypass.[2][35][36] Between Ridgecrest and Old Fort, US 70 along Youngs Ridge was four-lane as of 1954; however, I-40 was not officially designated until 1982, after additional highway improvements, including additional widening, runaway truck ramps, and warning devices.[37][38]

In 1960, I-40 made three expansions: in Burke County, from Dysartsville Road (SR 1129) to Hildebran (connecting to US 64/US 70 along I-40 Access Road Southeast (SR 1890)); from NC 16 in Conover to NC 90 in Statesville; and from NC 801 near Advance to the US 158/US 421 split east of Winston-Salem.[39][40] In 1961, I-40 extended west from Dysartsville Road to NC 226 near Marion. In Statesville, I-40 extended east along a completed widening project of the US 64 Bypass, between NC 90 to US 64.[41] In 1962, I-40 extended west from NC 226 near Marion to link-up with US 70 near Old Fort. In 1963, the gap between Winston-Salem and Kernersville was completed.[42] In 1964, I-40 opened a 12-mile (19 km) segment from east of Clyde (using the freeway connector from US 19/US 23) to Wiggins Road (SR 1200).[43] In 1967, I-40 opened a 3.8-mile (6.1 km) segment through the Biltmore Estate from NC 191 to US 25.[44] In 1968 and after 10 years of construction, I-40 opened a 20-mile (32 km) segment from the Tennessee state line to US 276 in Cove Creek.[45][46] In November of same year, the North Carolina State Highway Commission submitted a request to the Bureau of Public Roads to extend I-40 east of Greensboro to Raleigh via the Research Triangle Park (RTP). In 1969, both the Bureau and AASHTO approved the extension, allowing I-40 to continue east of Durham through Raleigh to Smithfield.[2][47] Also in the same year, I-40 was extended west from NC 191 to connect with I-26 and end at US 19/US 23 in Enka.[48] In 1970, I-40 extended west from NC 801 near Advance to US 64 near Mocksville.[49]

In 1971, two gaps were completed: Wiggins Road (SR 1200) to US 19/US 23 in Enka; and US 64 in Statesville to US 64 near Mocksville.[50] In July, NCSHC finalized a plan for I-40's routing east of Durham to Smithfield, with an estimated cost of $75 million (equivalent to $375 million in 2020[51]).[52] In December, new freeway opened between Davis Drive (SR 1999) in the Research Triangle Park (RTP) to US 1/US 64 (Raleigh Beltline) in Raleigh; I-40 was added along seven miles (11 km) between Davis Drive and Harrison Avenue (SR 1654), while east of Harrison Avenue (future Wade Avenue) was signed "To I-40".[2][53][54] In 1972, I-40 extended east from US 25 in Asheville to Porters Cove Road (SR 2838) in Oteen; the extension bypassed both US 25A and US 74, where interchanges were built in 1999 and 1973, respectively.[55] In 1973, I-40 and the Durham Freeway (future NC 147; now I-885) were connected in the RTP.[56] In 1974, a gap was completed between US 276 in Cove Creek to the freeway connector (future Great Smoky Mountains Expressway) near Clyde. I-40 also extended east from Porters Cove Road in Oteen to Patton Cove Road (SR 2740) in Swannanoa.[57] In 1976, a gap of I-40 was completed between Henry River Road (SR 1002) in Hildebran and NC 16 in Conover.[58] In April 1978, after years of debate on where I-40 should be routed east of I-95, either Morehead City or Wilmington, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) approved a corridor location between Raleigh and Wilmington. The discussions on its routing started since the initial extension in 1969 and arguments from several area groups why the routing should go to their port city. In the end, the routing approval to Wilmington came with a caveat to build new freeway in parallel to US 117 instead of a full upgrade of US 421 as several in the region supported.[2][59][60][61][62] In 1979, I-40 was extended east from Patton Cove Road in Swannanoa to US 70 in Ridgecrest.[63]

Barstow, California, distance sign, as seen from I-40 in Wilmington
Barstow, California, distance sign, as seen from I-40 in Wilmington

In 1982, I-40 was designated, in concurrency with US 70, along Youngs Ridge between Ridgecrest and Old Fort; this officially completed the original I-40 routing from Tennessee to Greensboro.[38] In 1984, I-40 was extended in Raleigh from Wade Avenue (exit 289), along the Tom Bradshaw Freeway, to the Cliff Benson Beltline (exit 301).[64] Also same year, AASHTO approved of designation of I-40 between Wallace and Wilmington, currently under construction at the time.[65][66] By 1985, construction began on a 22-mile (35 km) project, connecting the Durham Freeway in the RTP with I-85 west of Hillsborough at an estimated cost of $103 million (equivalent to $215 million in 2020[51]).[67] In 1985, I-40 was placed on new 19-mile (31 km) section between US 117 (exit 390) near Willard and NC 210 (exit 408) near Rocky Point.[68] In 1986, I-40 was extended west from the Durham Freeway (exit 279) to NC 55 (exit 278) in the RTP; I-40 was also extended east to its current eastern terminus at US 117/NC 132 (exit 420) in Wilmington.[69] In 1987, I-40 was extended west from US 117 (exit 390) near Willard to NC 41 (exit 385) near Tin City.[70] In 1988, I-40 was extended west to US 15/US 501 (exit 270) in Chapel Hill and east to US 70 (exit 306) in Garner. In October, then-Governor James G. Martin announced federal approval of $114.1 million (equivalent to $220 million in 2020[51]) for I-40 to be relocated around Winston-Salem.[71][72] In 1989, I-40 was extended west to I-85 (exit 259) west of Hillsborough and east to I-95 (exit 328) in Benson.[2][73][74] By 1990, I-40 was extended west from NC 41 (exit 385) in Tin City to US 117 (exit 369) near Warsaw.[75] On June 29, 1990, with a ribbon-cutting by Gov. James G. Martin, I-40 was connected between Raleigh and Wilmington, providing improved access with the Port of Wilmington with the rest of the state.[2] At around this time, a standard distance sign near the start of the westbound section of I-40 in Wilmington indicates the distance to Barstow, California, as 2,554 miles (4,110 km). In December, AASHTO approved the I-40 designation between Raleigh and Wallace; and in January 1991, NCDOT certified the designation.[76][77]

The final gap of I-40 was completed when it was designated along existing I-85 from Greensboro to west of Hillsborough c. 1992. In November, the 20.89-mile (33.62 km) Winston-Salem Bypass was completed and opened; featuring mostly new construction, with a short overlap of existing US 311 freeway. The former alignment, featuring the first sections of I-40 completed in the state, was designated as I-40 Bus., with a complete concurrency with US 421. After 34 years, I-40 was officially completed in North Carolina.[78][79][80][81]

Since completion

In 1996, 35 miles (56 km) of I-40/I-85, through Alamance and Orange counties, were widened to eight lanes. At a cost of $175 million (equivalent to $272 million in 2020[51]), the project began in 1989 and opened completed sections in phases.[82][83][84][85]

In December 2004, a 10.6-mile (17.1 km) widening project was completed from US 15/US 501 (exit 270) in Durham to NC 147 (now I-885/NC 885; exit 279) in the RTP. The project expanded lanes from four to six-lanes.[86] In March 2005, construction crews returned for eight weeks to replace asphalt used in the widening project, which began to deteriorate not long after the lanes opened to the public.[87] However, the paving mistakes were more severe, and NCDOT contracted Lane Construction Corp to replace all the bad concrete used in the botch widening project, at a cost of $21.7 million (equivalent to $28.2 million in 2020[51]).[88][89]

In 2011, an eight-mile (13 km) widening project was completed between Harrison Avenue (exit 287) and Gorman Street (exit 295). At a cost of $49 million (equivalent to $56.7 million in 2020[51]), the project expanded lanes from four to six-lanes.[90]

Pigeon River Gorge

Crews clearing the westbound lanes from the 2012 rockslide
Crews clearing the westbound lanes from the 2012 rockslide

The first section of I-40 in North Carolina is the section that travels through the Pigeon River Gorge in Haywood County. Known locally as simply "The Gorge", this part of I-40 cuts a path from the Tennessee state line to Waynesville. This section of the Interstate is curvy and tends to become a bit narrow in some places when compared to other portions of the highway. Because much of the road was cut through mountainside and along the river, concrete retaining walls have been built on both sides of the road and in the median, cutting down on the width of the breakdown lanes. Coupled with speeding vehicles, the thick fog that tends to plague the area, winter weather, and little room to maneuver in case of accident, this area has become notorious for its severe and many times fatal accidents. It is reported that a person is 20 times as likely to die on I-40 in Haywood County than they would be to win the Powerball lottery, which equals to be twice the average of any other Interstate Highway in North Carolina.[91]

Even some minor accidents have been known to tie up traffic in this area, because there is little room to move accidents off or to the side of the road with the terrain. Speeding semitrucks have been a problem in the gorge and have subsequently led to many accidents. In 2002 and 2003, two state troopers were killed in two separate accidents by speeding trucks that drifted off the road and hit their police car conducting a traffic stop. This led the North Carolina Highway Patrol to crack down on speeding tractor trailers and speeders in general through the area.

This portion of the highway is also notorious for rockslides and rocks falling onto the highway. The main cause is an engineering flaw, in that sections of the highway have been built on the northside of the Pigeon River, where the rock stratums foliate toward the highway.

In 1985, a severe rockslide buried the westbound entrance to one of two tunnels that carry the highway through the gorge. Repair of the slide area and the tunnel required shifting westbound traffic to the eastbound tunnel, while eastbound traffic was diverted onto a temporary viaduct around the tunnels.[citation needed] In July 1997, a rockslide near the Tennessee state line closed the entire road for nearly three months.[92]

In 2009, a large rockslide at milemarker 2.6 along I-40 near the Tennessee State Line shut down the freeway for several weeks. While the slide only caused minor injuries, it shut down I-40 in both directions.[93][94][95][96][97]

Greensboro relocation

See also: Greensboro Urban Loop

The six routes of Death Valley in 2007
The six routes of Death Valley in 2007

In February 2008, I-40 was relocated onto the southern section Greensboro Urban Loop, marking the first change to I-40 since it was rerouted onto the Winston-Salem Bypass opened in 1992 which was completely constructed the same year. At a cost of $122 million (equivalent to $147 million in 2020[51]), it was constructed by Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta and took four years to complete. NCDOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett said that "the opening of the Greensboro Western Urban Loop is a major step in improving the mobility of the Triad region" and that "the highway will provide better access for motorists in and around Greensboro, as well as those traveling between the eastern and western areas of our state." The new routing was placed in concurrency with I-73, while its former alignment became an extension of I-40 Bus.[98]

The glowing sentiment the NCDOT Secretary gave on the new I-40 routing was unfortunately not reciprocated. NCDOT received many complaints by local residents and motorists on the confusion between "Blue" 40 and "Green" 40. Greensboro residents also had concerns with the resulting increased traffic and noise. On September 12, 2008, seven months after the initial switch and in agreement with Greensboro DOT and FHWA, I-40 was rerouted to its original route through the city, I-40 Bus. was decommissioned, and I-73 and I-85 were left as the only Interstates signed along the loop. Exit numbers on the western segment of the loop were to be replaced with I-73 exit numbers; while exit numbers along I-40 Bus. would be changed over to I-40 exit numbers.[99] At a cost around $300,000 (equivalent to $358,819 in 2020[51]), all signage was replaced by July 1, 2009.[100][101] In November 2009, US 421 was rerouted onto the Urban Loop, replacing most of I-40's brief alignment around Greensboro.[102][103]

The current alignment of I-40 is four miles (6.4 km) shorter than the 2008 Urban Loop routing and is the quicker route for any vehicle consistently traveling at the posted speed limits.[23]

Statesville interchange rebuild

In Statesville, the I-40/I-77 interchange (exit 152), originally built in the late 1960s, is currently being upgraded to increase capacity and improve safety. The initial estimated cost for the entire project is $251 million with construction started in March 2012.[104][105] The first phase, completed in summer 2019, involved the widening of I-40 from four to six lanes. The second phase, begun in 2020, involves a similar widening of I-77 and the reconstruction of the interchange into a partial turbine interchange. There is no anticipated completion date for the project as of September 2020.[106]

Fortify project

Begun in 2013, an extensive project known as "Fortify" (a play on the route number "40") overhauled I-40 along the southern edge of Raleigh, from the I-40/US 1/US 64 interchange (exit 293) near Cary Crossroads through the I-40/I-440 split (exit 301) in Southeast Raleigh, including the easternmost two miles (3.2 km) of I-440 as well. The project necessitated a complete teardown and rebuild of the roadway, widening of the roadway, rehabilitation and widening of bridges and overpasses along the entire route, and extension and widening of several highly congested exit and entrance ramps.[107]

The project was divided into two phases, the first (completed in summer 2015) was a rebuilding and repaving of I-40 and I-440 from I-40 exit 301 to I-440 exit 14. The second phase, completed in late 2018, was the more extensive rebuild of I-40 from exit 293 to exit 301.[107]

Southeast Raleigh–Clayton widening

Begun in autumn 2018 after the completion of the Fortify project to widen I-40 through South Raleigh, the section of I-40 between the I-40/I-440 split (exit 301) and NC 42 (exit 312) is being widened. As part of the widening project, many of the overpasses along the route are being reconstructed, both to accommodate the wider road underneath, and to expand capacity of the roads passing overhead. An onramp was removed at exit 306 (US 70) in November 2019 in order to accommodate the wider roadway. Traffic that normally used a free-flowing loop ramp is now routed through a left-turn traffic light to access the other onramp. Exit 312 (NC 42) is being rebuilt entirely as a diverging diamond interchange, and an additional ramp is being built at that exit to provide access to Cleveland Road. Additionally, the interchange at exit 309 for US 70 (Clayton Bypass) is being expanded to also including the future NC 540/Triangle Expressway. In December 2020, a new overhead flyover ramp between I-440 east and I-40 east was opened, replacing the older ramp to allow for the wider freeway underneath.[108] The project is expected to be completed to Exit 309 by 2023, with the I-40/NC 42 interchange rebuild expected to be completed by 2024.[109]

Future

A widening project along I-40 is in development stage, between milemarkers 259 and 279 in Orange and Durham counties. After some initial delays due to noise concerns through populated areas and two public comment meetings, the project is currently in the right-of-way acquisition phase, and construction is scheduled to begin around 2022; however, NCDOT has suspended engineering activities for the project.[110]

Exit list

CountyLocationmikmExitDestinationsNotes
Haywood0.00.0
I-40 west – Knoxville
Continuation into Tennessee
6.710.87Cold Springs Creek Road – Harmon Den
14.823.815Fines Creek Road
Cove Creek20.533.020
US 276 south – Waynesville, Maggie Valley
24.238.924 NC 209 – Lake Junaluska, Hot Springs
27.343.927
US 19 / US 23 / US 74 west – Clyde, Waynesville
West end of US 74 overlap
Canton31.250.231 NC 215 – Canton
33.253.433Newfound Road – Canton
Buncombe37.460.237Wiggins Road – Candler, East Canton
Asheville44.371.344
US 19 / US 23 / US 74A east – West Asheville, Enka, Candler
45.973.946A
I-26 / US 74 east – Hendersonville, Spartanburg
East end of US 74 overlap; no eastbound entrance; westbound left exit
46B


Future I-26 west / I-240 east – Asheville, Johnson City
No westbound exit; eastbound left exit
46.775.247 NC 191 – West AshevilleTo Farmers Market
50.280.850 US 25 – South Asheville, Biltmore HouseSigned as exits 50A (south) and 50B (north) westbound
51.382.651 US 25A – Asheville
52.885.053A
US 74A east / Blue Ridge Parkway – Bat Cave
53B
I-240 / US 74A west – East Asheville
55.188.755
To US 70 – East Asheville
To VA Hospital
58.894.659Patton Cove Road – Swannanoa
Black Mountain63.8102.764 NC 9 – Black Mountain, Montreat
64.8104.365
US 70 west – Black Mountain
West end of US 70 overlap; westbound exit and eastbound entrance
65.7105.766Dunsmore Avenue – Ridgecrest
McDowellOld Fort71.4114.972
US 70 east – Old Fort
To Mount Mitchell; East end of US 70 overlap; eastbound exit and westbound entrance
72.4116.573Catawaba Avenue – Old Fort
74.8120.475Parker Padgett Road
Marion81.2130.781Sugar Hill Road – Marion
83.4134.283Ashworth Road
84.6136.285 US 221 – Marion, Rutherfordton
86.3138.986 NC 226 – Marion, Shelby
89.8144.590Harmony Grove Road – Nebo, Lake James
Burke94.1151.494Dysartsville Road
95.8154.296Kathy Road
Glen Alpine97.5156.998Causby Road – Glen Alpine
99.5160.1100Jamestown Road / Dixie Boulevard – Glen Alpine
Morganton102.9165.6103 US 64 – Morganton, Rutherfordton
104.1167.5104Enola Road
105.1169.1105 NC 18 – Morganton, Shelby
106.2170.9106Bethel Road
107.4172.8107 NC 114 – Drexel
Valdese110.7178.2111Abees Grove Church Road / Milestone Avenue – Valdese
111.4179.3112Mineral Springs Mountain Road – Valdese
Rutherford College112.3180.7113Rutherford College Road / Malcom Boulevard – Connelly Springs, Rutherford College
Icard116.2187.0116Old NC 10 – Icard
Hildebran117.9189.7118Old NC 10
118.8191.2119Henry River Road / Center Street – Henry River, HildebranSigned as exits 119A (Henry River) and 119B (Hildebran) eastbound
CatawbaLong View120.6194.112133rd Street – Long View
Hickory122.8197.6123A

US 321 south to NC 127 – Lincolnton, Gastonia
Cloverleaf interchange with Collector/distributor roadways
123B

US 321 north to US 70 – Hickory, Lenoir, Boone
To Appalachian State University and Hickory Regional Airport
125.1201.3125Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard – HickoryTo Lenoir-Rhyne University
126.2203.1126
To US 70 – Hickory, Newton
Conover128.1206.2128Fairgrove Church RoadTo Hickory Motor Speedway
130.2209.5130Old US 70
131.1211.0131 NC 16Permanently closed by 2008.
131.6211.8132 NC 16 – Newton, Conover, Taylorsville
132.6213.4133Rock Barn Road
Claremont134.3216.1135Oxford Street – Claremont
Catawba138.1222.3138
NC 10 west (Oxford School Road) – Catawba
Iredell140.4226.0141Sharon School Road
144.0231.7144Old Mountain Road – West Iredell
145.4234.0146Stamey Farm Road
Statesville147.7237.7148 US 64 / NC 90 – West Statesville, Taylorsville
149.5240.6150 NC 115 – Downtown Statesville, North Wilkesboro
151.2243.3151 US 21 – East Statesville, Harmony
152.0244.6152 I-77 – Charlotte, WythevilleSigned as exits 152A (south) and 152B (north); I-77 exit 51
152.9246.1153 US 64 – StatesvillePermanently closed as of October 1, 2012; was an eastbound exit and westbound entrance[111][112]
153.7247.4154 US 64 (Old Mocksville Road)
161.8260.4162 US 64
DavieMocksville167.8270.0168 US 64 – Mocksville
169.5272.8170 US 601 – Mocksville, Yadkinville
173.5279.2174Farmington Road
179.8289.4180 NC 801 – Bermuda Run, TanglewoodSigned as exits 180A (south) and 180B (north) Westbound
ForsythClemmons182.1293.1182Harper Road – Tanglewood, Bermuda Run
183.5295.3184Lewisville–Clemmons Road – Lewisville, Clemmons
Winston-Salem187.7302.1188 US 421 (Salem Parkway) – Downtown Winston-Salem, YadkinvilleNo access from US 421 south to I-40 west
188.6303.5189 US 158 (Stratford Road)
189.3304.6190Hanes Mall BoulevardWestbound exit and eastbound entrance
191.3307.9192 NC 150 (Peters Creek Parkway) – Downtown Winston-Salem
192.5309.8193CSilas Creek Parkway, South Main StreetWestbound exit and eastbound entrance
193.2310.9193A
I-285 / US 52 / NC 8 south – Lexington
193B
US 52 / NC 8 north – Mount Airy
194.3312.7195 NC 109 / Clemmonsville Road – Thomasville
195.9315.3196
I-74 east – High Point
198 I-74 (Winston-Salem Beltway)Future interchange (Construction to start in Spring 2022 with a completion date of November 2026)[113][114]
Kernersville200.7323.0201Union Cross RoadDiverging diamond interchange
203.5327.5203 NC 66 / Regional Road – Kernersville, High Point
GuilfordColfax206.4332.2206
US 421 north (Salem Parkway) – Kernersville
North end of US 421 overlap; westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Greensboro207.4333.8208Sandy Ridge Road
209.7337.5210 NC 68 – High Point, Piedmont Triad International Airport
210.7339.1211Gallimore Dairy RoadSP Diamond Interchange
212.1341.3212A

I-73 / US 421 south to I-85 – Asheboro
Eastbound left exit; south end of US 421 overlap; I-85 signed eastbound
212B

I-73 north / I-840 east – PTI-GSO Airport, Martinsville
213.0342.8213Guilford College Road
213.8344.1214Wendover AvenueSigned as exits 214A (west) and 214B (east) eastbound
215.3346.5216Patterson StreetEastbound exit and westbound entrance
216.8348.9217Gate City Boulevard, Koury Boulevard
218.2351.2218
US 220 south / Freeman Mill Road – Asheboro
West end of US 220 overlap; signed as exits 218A (US 220) and 218B (Freeman Mill Road)
219.0352.4219

US 29 south / US 70 west – Charlotte
South end of US 29 and west end of US 70 overlap
219.3352.9220Randleman Road
219.9353.9221South Elm-Eugene Street – Downtown Greensboro
221.0355.7222Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
221.1355.8223


US 29 north / US 70 east / US 220 north – Reidsville
North end of US 29/US 220 and east end of US 70 overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance
223.3359.4224Gate City Boulevard, Lee StreetTo Bennett College, UNC Greensboro, A&T University and Greensboro College
225.7363.2226McConnell Road
226.5364.5227

I-85 south / I-785 north – Danville, Charlotte
South end of I-85 overlap; hidden west I-840
I-40 overlaps with Interstate 85 (exits 131 to 163)
OrangeHillsborough258.3415.7259
I-85 north – Durham
North end of I-85 overlap
260.8419.7261Old NC Highway 86 – Hillsborough
262.9423.1263New Hope Church Road
265.8427.8266 NC 86 – Chapel Hill, Hillsborough
DurhamChapel Hill269.9434.4270 US 15 / US 501 – Chapel Hill, Durham
272.7438.9273 NC 54 – Chapel Hill, DurhamSigned as exits 273A (west) and 273B (east) westbound
Durham274.2441.3274 NC 751 – Jordan Lake
275.6443.5276Fayetteville Road  – Southpoint, North Carolina Central UniversitySP Diamond Interchange
277.8447.1278
NC 55 to NC 54 – Apex
Research Triangle Park279.1449.2279A

NC 885 Toll south (Triangle Expressway) – Morrisville
Former NC 147
279B
I-885 north (Durham Freeway) – Downtown Durham
280.1450.8280Davis Drive
Durham280.8451.9281Miami Boulevard
281.4452.9282Page Road
282.3454.3283








I-540 east / NC 540 west to NC 540 Toll / US 1 north / US 64 east / US 70 – North Raleigh
Signed westbound as exits 283A (East I-540) and 283B (West NC 540)
WakeMorrisville283.5456.2284Airport Boulevard – RDU International AirportSigned eastbound as exits 284A (west) and 284B (east); under conversion into Diverging diamond interchange.[115]
Cary284.7458.2285Aviation Parkway  – Morrisville, RDU International AirportSigned westbound as exits 285A (south) and 285B (north)
287.0461.9287Harrison Avenue – Cary
Raleigh288.6464.5289


To I-440 / US 1 north / Wade Avenue – Downtown Raleigh
To PNC Arena, Carter–Finley Stadium, State Fairgrounds, NCSU Veterinary College, and NC Museum of Art
290.5467.5290 NC 54 – Cary
291.4469.0291Cary Towne Boulevard – Cary
292.6470.9293A

US 1 south / US 64 west – Cary, Asheboro
West end of US 64 overlap
293B

I-440 east / US 1 north – Raleigh, Wake Forest
Cloverleaf interchange with Collector/distributor roadways
295.0474.8295Gorman Street
297.1478.1297Lake Wheeler Road
298.0479.6298 US 70 / US 401 / NC 50 (S. Saunders Street) – Raleigh Downtown, GarnerSigned as exits 298A (east/south) and 298B (west/north), to be converted into a Diverging diamond interchange
298.8480.9299Hammond Road, Person Street
300.3483.3300Rock Quarry RoadSigned as exits 300A (south) and 300B (north) westbound
301.1484.6301


I-87 north / I-440 west / US 64 east – Knightdale
East end of US 64 overlap; Eastbound exit is a left exit
303.5488.4303Jones Sausage Road
Garner305.6491.8306


US 70 west / US 70 Bus. east – Garner, Clayton
West end of US 70 overlap; signed as exits 306A (west) and 306B (east) westbound
309.6498.3309
US 70 east – Smithfield, Goldsboro
East end of US 70 overlap
310
NC 540 Toll (Triangle Expressway)
Future interchange (under construction)[116]
Johnston311.8501.8312 NC 42 – Clayton, Fuquay-VarinaTo be converted into Diverging diamond interchange as part of the widening[117]
312.4502.8Cleveland RoadFuture interchange (under construction)[118]
McGee's Crossroads318.6512.7319 NC 210 – Smithfield, Angier
Benson325.4523.7325

NC 242 south to US 301 – Benson
327.8527.5328 I-95 – Benson, Fayetteville, Rocky Mount, SmithfieldSigned as exits 328A (south) and 328B (north); I-95 exit 81
333.6536.9334 NC 96 – Meadow
SampsonNewton Grove341.0548.8341
NC 50 / NC 55 to US 13 – Newton Grove
343.3552.5343
US 701 to US 13 – Clinton, Newton Grove
to Bentonville Battlefield
348.0560.1348Suttontown Road
355.4572.0355 NC 403 – Faison
DuplinWarsaw364.5586.6364



NC 24 west / NC 24 Bus. east to NC 50 – Warsaw, Clinton
West end of NC 24 overlap
369.6594.8369 US 117 – Warsaw
372.9600.1373
NC 24 east / NC 903 – Magnolia, Kenansville, Beulaville
East end of NC 24 overlap
Rose Hill380.0611.6380Charity Road – Rose Hill
384.1618.1384 NC 11 – Wallace, Greenevers
385.4620.2385 NC 41 – Wallace, Beulaville
Pender390.2628.0390 US 117 – Wallace
Burgaw398.5641.3398 NC 53 – Burgaw, Jacksonville
Rocky Point408.1656.8408 NC 210 – Rocky PointTo Moores Creek National Battlefield
New HanoverCastle Hayne414.5667.1414Holly Shelter Road – Castle Hayne
Murraysville416.9670.9416
I-140 west / NC 140 – Shallotte, Myrtle Beach, Topsail Island, Jacksonville
Signed as exits 416A (west) and 416B (east)
Wilmington419.9675.8420
US 117 / NC 132 north / Gordon Road – Castle Hayne
Signed as exits 420A (Gordon Road) and 420B (US 117/NC 132) westbound
423.6681.7
US 117 / NC 132 south – State Port, Carolina Beach
Continuation as US 117/NC 132
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Related routes

There are five auxiliary routes and three former business routes for I-40 in the state.

I-140 is a spur route in Wilmington that bypasses US 17 and forms a partial loop in the city. I-240 loops around downtown Asheville and the districts in the city. I-440 serves as much of the inner loop in the Raleigh, while I-540 serves as an outer loop in the Raleigh area, also bypassing the suburbs. I-840 serves as part of the north portion of the Greensboro Urban Loop.

I-40 Bus. used a freeway grade going through downtown Winston-Salem and the districts surrounding downtown, while I-40 used a mostly newer bypass stretch going through fewer districts in the city limits. In 2020, Interstate 40 Bus. was decommissioned. Salem Parkway was picked as the new name for the route. There was an I-40 Bus. in Raleigh which was unsigned and was replaced by I-440. In 2008, I-40 Bus. was briefly designated going through Greensboro when I-40 was rerouted onto the southern part of the Greensboro Urban Loop, which was then recently completed. I-40 was eventually rerouted back in going through most of the city that same year.

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