Work will soon begin to widen two more sections of Interstate 95 south of Fayetteville, as North Carolina gradually upgrades its part of the main highway between the Northeast and Florida.
The N.C. Department of Transportation this week awarded the second of two contracts to double the number of lanes on I-95 between Fayetteville and Lumberton to eight. The work, between mile markers 21 and 37, begins this fall and is expected to be finished by the end of 2026.
NCDOT has now awarded six separate construction contracts worth $1.7 billion to widen I-95 south of the Interstate 40 interchange in Johnston County. The work began in late 2019 with a 15-mile stretch in Cumberland and Harnett counties, which should be completed sometime in 2024.
If all goes as planned, I-95 will be eight lanes wide from I-40 south through Lumberton to mile marker 13, except for one stretch near Fayetteville. For the foreseeable future, I-95 will remain four lanes between exits 41 and 55, at either end of the Fayetteville Outer Loop when its completed in 2026.
The traffic on that stretch of I-95 is not expected to be as heavy, because of people heading in and out of Fayetteville on the loop, said NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale. In addition, Barksdale said, that section was the last part of I-95 to open in North Carolina and was built to modern standards.
Other sections of I-95, some of which date to the 1950s, have outdated bridge, medians, shoulders and interchange designs that will be replaced with each widening project. The busiest section of I-95 in North Carolina, through Dunn, handled more than 57,500 cars and trucks a day on average in 2020. It opened in 1959.
The outdated designs and volume of traffic have made I-95 relatively unsafe. From 2010 through 2012, as the widening projects were being planned, the fatal crash rate on I-95 in North Carolina ranged from .72 to 1.02 per 100 million vehicle miles, twice the statewide average, according to NCDOT.
To widen the highway, contractors will install concrete barriers, eliminate shoulders in some places and occasionally close a lane overnight, according to NCDOT. Both lanes should remain open during the day.
NCDOT has no immediate plans to widen I-95 north of I-40 to the Virginia line, which is generally less busy than the southern section. But the state is replacing aging bridges over the highway, and when it does it sizes the new ones to accommodate an eight-lane highway that will someday pass underneath.