RALEIGH — A 44-mile stretch of U.S. 64 will be elevated to interstate highway status between Raleigh and Rocky Mount, Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday. It will be renamed Interstate 495.
New I-495 signs will be posted soon along the 4-mile section between Raleigh’s I-440 Beltline and the 540 Outer Loop, which already meets interstate highway standards. The rest of U.S. 64 from 540 to I-95 at Rocky Mount will be marked as Future I-495 until it is upgraded, the state Department of Transportation said.
DOT will widen the inside and outside shoulders of this part of the highway to meet interstate standards. These improvements will take place “as part of normally scheduled reconstruction activities along the route,” DOT said. The work has not been scheduled and no timetable was announced for the complete I-495 conversion.
Except for the narrow shoulders, this section of U.S. 64 already serves as a fast-moving freeway between Raleigh and Rocky Mount. The new name won’t make it a better road, but people in both cities say it will better identify it as a good road.
“I just think having that blue interstate shield has a tremendous effect, particularly when you’re recruiting industry and stuff,” said Gus Tulloss, a Rocky Mount insurance agent and member of the state Board of Transportation. “That’s just good bragging rights, so to speak.”
The change for U.S. 64 was sought by the Regional Transportation Alliance, a business group associated with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce that lobbies for transportation improvements.
“When you call it an interstate, people know what the quality of the road is,” said Joe Milazzo II, the group’s executive director. “When they come to the Triangle, they want to know: Do you have interstate highway access?”
McCrory announced the name change after receiving approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
“This designation is an important part of our future vision for transportation in North Carolina and is key to promoting job creation and aligning our infrastructure with commerce activity,” McCrory said in a statement.
The name change will qualify the state for additional federal interstate maintenance money. Once the change is complete, I-495 will join I-40 as Raleigh’s second interstate highway connection to I-95, the primary north-south route along most of the East Coast.
Transportation officials and economic developers also have expressed interest in building a new freeway east of Rocky Mount that would extend I-495 to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.