By Sarah Nagem
Construction on a 24-mile stretch of Interstate 95 through Robeson County will ultimately make the major thoroughfare safer, less congested and less prone to flooding, state transportation officials say.
For the next four years, however, drivers will have to contend with reduced speed limits, lane closures and the hum of large equipment.
“The truth is, it’s going to be inconvenient,” said Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
NCDOT is widening most of I-95 between mile marker 13, at the U.S. 74 interchange in Robeson County, to Exit 81 in Johnston County at the Interstate 40 junction. The goal is also to modernize the highway, Barksdale said.
I-95, which Barksdale called “a Main Street for the East Coast,” stretches from Florida to Maine. In North Carolina, the 182-mile corridor was built between the late 1950s and 1980, according to NCDOT.
The state completed an assessment of I-95 in 2016 and then identified sections in most need of repairs and upgrades.
“There have not been any large-scale improvements or widening of I-95, and several of its bridges and ramps no longer meet modern interstate design standards,” the transportation department says on its website.
In Robeson, transportation leaders had hurricanes in mind. Flooding made I-95 through Lumberton impassable during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.
“Along with reduced mobility, the loss of the interstate corridor during a storm impedes emergency services and interstate commerce, and hinders military preparedness,”
Here’s what to expect, and when, as crews begin work in Robeson.
Which part of I-95 is affected?
I-95 will be widened from two to four travel lanes in each direction from mile marker 13 north into Cumberland County.
What about bridges and overpasses?
Workers will replace “several” bridges and overpasses and upgrade interchanges, NCDOT says.
Three interchanges – at exits 17, 19 and 20 – will get new bridges and ramps.
What’s the construction timeline?
Construction is underway and is expected to be complete in summer 2026.
Crews began work this summer between mile markers 29 and 37 north of Lumberton. They’re expected to start this fall between mile markers 21 and 29.
Work began in September on the southernmost stretch, from mile marker 13 to 21.
Why does I-95 need to be wider?
The interstate plays an important role in commerce and economic development. Creating four lanes in each direction will ease congestion.
“It’s going to really be good for the growth of our state,” Barksdale said.
Travel lanes will also get wider, from the current 11.5 feet to 12 feet, to meet modern standards, according to Barksdale.
“Back then, vehicles were smaller,” he said of the interstate’s original construction. “Tractor-trailers were smaller.”
Now, he said, “Just having that extra width allows people to drive more safely.”
What should drivers expect during construction?
Speed limits will be reduced during construction, Barksdale said. Crews will set up concrete barriers, and shoulder access will be drastically reduced.
There will be some overnight lane closures.
What else is happening?
I-95 will also be widened to eight lanes between mile markers 37 and 41. The project is part of the Fayetteville Outer Loop, which will “extend I-295 to I-95 in Robeson County,” according to NCDOT.
Work on that section is expected to be complete in December 2024.
Meanwhile, work has already begun to widen I-95 from Exit 55 in Cumberland County to Exit 81 in Johnston County. Part of the project is expected to wrap up in fall 2025, and another in summer 2026.
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