Work to widen another section of Interstate 95 will begin soon, after the N.C. Department of Transportation awarded a $236.5 million contract in July.
A joint venture of Flatiron and Fred Smith Co. based in Morrisville will upgrade the interstate from north of Exit 71 in Harnett County to the interstate's junction with I-40 at Exit 81 in Benson. Two travel lanes will be added in each direction, bringing the total to eight lanes.
This project will modernize about 9 miles of the state's oldest stretch of I-95 that opened circa 1959. The project entails the following:
- Replace two culverts with single-structure bridges to improve the ability of water to safely flow underneath the interstate, which has flooded and closed in recent hurricanes;
- Rebuild Exits 72, 73, 75 and 77 to modern standards that include taller, wider bridges, longer acceleration lanes and realigned service roads;
- Retain the N.C. 50 bridge at Exit 79, but construct roundabouts at the on/off ramps to improve safety and traffic flow, and
- Construct a new overpass that connects South Market Street, which has a dead end on the north side of the interstate, with Cub Road on the other side of the interstate. The new overpass, which will not have interstate access, will alleviate congestion, including from commercial trucks, in downtown Benson.
The scope of work will be identical to the widening underway on I-95 from just north of Exit 55 in Cumberland County through Exit 71, which is being reconstructed south of Dunn. This video highlights the construction happening on I-95.
Work on the new contract can begin after Aug. 30. At the start of the project, the contractor will need to conduct overnight lane closures to add temporary pavement and install concrete barriers that will be in place for much of the construction.
The contractor has until the summer of 2026 to complete the project. The widening and upgrade between exits 55-71 is scheduled to finish in the summer of 2024.
12/15 Update: More cameras, speed sensors and other equipment designed to improve the safety of the work zone are being installed along a 16-mile stretch in Cumberland and Harnett counties where a state transportation contractor is widening Interstate 95. The N.C. Department of Transportation is deploying the equipment to better gauge traffic conditions in real-time and more quickly inform drivers via changeable message boards of detours due to a crash or other incident. That’s why NCDOT is also installing alternate I-95 signs, which will direct people to use a preplanned detour route, such as U.S. 301, if there are closures in the work zone causing long delays. “The use of this additional equipment will improve traffic conditions during the I-95 reconstruction,” said Greg Burns, the department’s Division 6 engineer based in Fayetteville. “This technology also will result in a safer work zone for drivers and workers.” The department’s Statewide Transportation Operations Center will monitor the cameras and speed sensors and update the message boards as needed within the work zone.
Planning and development are underway on a project to widen about 25 miles of I-95 to eight lanes between I-95 Business/U.S. 301 (Exit 56) in Cumberland County and I 40 (Exit 81) in Johnston County, including all of Harnett County. Proposed work also would include rebuilding at least six interchanges with new overpasses, loops and ramps that meet modern standards. Additionally, service roads would be realigned or shifted to meet modern design standards.
An important part of the local, regional, state and national transportation systems, I-95 serves commerce, residential populations, the tourism sector, the military, school systems and medical centers, among other institutions. The interstate is also part of North Carolina’s hurricane evacuation route system.
The portion of I-95 to be widened between exits 56 and 71 is being funded in part by a $147 million federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant. This 25-mile section is the oldest and busiest in the state for I-95, reaching nearly 60,000 vehicles a day in southern Johnston County, according to a 2016 survey. According to the I-95 Planning and Finance Study Environmental Assessment (2012), congestion will increase and drivers will experience traffic jams, if the highway is not widened.
The project would ease congestion and accommodate future growth in traffic volumes, ensuring that I-95 remains a vital part of North Carolina’s transportation system.
COVID-19 Related Delays
Due to COVID-19 the I-95 widening project from Exit 71-Exit 81 has been delayed until July of 2021, when they will award a construction contract. This change comes from the Governors Stay-At-Home order and people across North Carolina taking lifesaving measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. This means traffic volumes have plummeted, causing at least a $300 million budget shortfall for the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for this fiscal year (ending June 30). We will attach a link when the project page on NCDOT has been updated!