With potentially record volume on the highways over the July 4 holiday weekend, North Carolina motorists planning to travel on I-85 to and from Virginia need to be aware of the potential for heavy delays near the state border, where there are two sections of the interstate where four lanes of traffic are reduced to two for a construction project. For the most part, lane closures on the state’s interstates are halted over the holiday weekend, but in some cases, such as on I-85, the type of construction does not allow for all travel lanes to be open.
Due to work to reconstruct the northbound lanes, all traffic has been shifted onto the southbound side of I-85 in those two locations, creating a two-lane, two-way traffic pattern. They can cause backups and delays because of the volume of traffic going through the work zone.
One shift that drivers will encounter is between mile markers 213.5 and 218.5, about 20 miles from the state line. The other is just a few miles south of the state line, between mile markers 226 and 230.
There are potential alternate routes available for motorists when heavy backups occur. Northbound drivers can use U.S. 158, U.S. 1 and U.S. 401 to travel between exits 215 and 233, with southbound drivers heading in the opposite order.
A longer alternate route to miss the work zone altogether would be for northbound I-85 motorists to use I-85 to I-40 East in Hillsborough, then onto I-540 East and around the north side of Raleigh onto I-495/U.S. 64 East to I-95 North in Rocky Mount, and back to I-85 in Petersburg, Virginia. The alternate route would be reversed for southbound I-85 motorists coming out of Richmond.
It may also be helpful if travelers can be on the road at non-peak travel times, when the traffic volume is lower. Even though work may not be occurring, drivers still need to pay extra attention in work zones, as well as slow down to the posted speed limit, not only when on I-85, but when encountering any work zone. Speeding through a marked work zone could result in an additional $250 fine in addition to the speeding fine and court costs.
We encourage motorists to check on travel conditions by visiting the Travel Services section of the NCDOT website, or follow the I-85 or Triangle Twitter feeds, or by having a passenger call 511 and follow the voice prompts for updates.