Skip to main content

Local Sign Find - The last remnant of Business Interstate 95 between Kenly and Rocky Mount , NC

As you head north on Interstate 95 at Exit 107 for Kenly and US 301, you'll notice something odd about the overhead sign for the exit.  Peeling off the sign for all that can see is the word 'NORTH' off-center from the US 301.  This old sign (probably close to original from when this section of I-95 opened - more on that in a little bit) gives a hint to a short-lived Business Interstate Route that ran from here to Rocky Mount.

The last hint of the Kenly-Wilson-Rocky Mount Business I-95 (Shaun White - August 2020)

Interstate 95 in North Carolina has a unique history.  But one of the overlooked and forgotten pieces of Interstate 95 in North Carolina is the 38 mile section between Kenly and Rocky Mount.  When opened to traffic in late 1978, it was the next to last piece of Interstate 95 in North Carolina to open replacing a four lane US 301 from Battleboro through Rocky Mount and Wilson to eventually tying back into the Interstate in Kenly.

Though it was not delayed in legal battles like the freeway gap in Fayetteville, it did take a good bit of time to complete - mainly because the existing US 301 was sufficient enough at the time.  US 301 was four lanes the entire way from Kenly north to Battleboro.  

In the mid-1950s, North Carolina began constructing a four lane US 301 that generally followed the 1947 National System of Interstate Highways Plan.(1)  Rural areas of US 301 were twinned, two lane bypasses of Rocky Mount and Wilson were built (later expanded), and a new US 301 route was being constructed in Johnston and Harnett Counties.  From 1955 to 1960, this four lane freeway extended northwards from Benson to Kenly and southwards from Dunn to just outside of Fayetteville.  By 1960, this would be come Interstate 95 between exits 56 and 107.

US 301 / Interstate 95 under construction at Kenly - 1957. (NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index)

Interstate 95 had ended at Kenly since 1960.  Currently, the Kenly exit is a partial cloverleaf interchange.  However, for nearly 20 years there was a different configuration.  The four lane interstate 95 bent slightly to the northeast and transitioned to continue north on a four lane US 301.  There was an at grade intersection for traffic that wanted to go south of US 301.  

Interstate 95 ends at Kenly and transitions into US 301 in 1970.  The at-grade intersection with US 301 south is shown.  (NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index)

Fortunately, the state had plans for a continuation of the highway northwards with a small amount of grading completed for Interstate 95 to the immediate north of the transition to US 301. (Shown at best in the 1957 photo.)

Interstate 95 at Gold Rock in 1975.  A number of motels and gas stations have popped up in the short seven years I-95 had been open.  More, including a Howard Johnson's, would open by the end of the decade.  (NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index)

When Interstate 95 was extended southwards from US 158 in Roanoke Rapids to the tiny community of Gold Rock (Exit 145) in 1968, traffic would be routed onto the still existing trumpet interchange onto a newly built four lane connector from Interstate 95 to US 301 in Battleboro.  When constructing the Gold Rock Interchange, NCDOT continued construction of Interstate 95 for about a mile southward.

The unused dead end of Interstate 95 about a mile south of Exit 145 - 1975.  It wasn't until late 1978 that traffic would finally use this empty stretch of highway.  (NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index)

The area around Exit 145 immediately boomed overnight with a number of motor lodges and gas stations built.  This was in addition to the numerous motor courts, motels, service stations, and other businesses that were along US 301 from Rocky Mount to Kenly.

As traffic volumes increased throughout the 1970s, it was time to complete the 38 mile gap.  Construction appears to have gone smoothly even with taking approximately one-third of Governor Jim Hunt's farmland in Wilson County. (2)  The 38 mile gap between exits 107 and 145 would finally open to traffic on November 21, 1978. (3)

Business Interstate 95
(1984 NCDOT)

When the highway opened, the state christened Business Interstate Loop 95 from Gold Rock to Kenly.  It followed the exact same route motorists used to bridge the gap between the two locations.  Though no official reason is given, it is most likely due to the number of businesses and lodging used by travelers along that stretch of US 301.  

The designation was short-lived as NCDOT removed the designation in 1986.   Into the 2000's, there was still some evidence of Business Interstate 95 remaining.  On the US 64 freeway in Rocky Mount, the guide signs at the US 301 By-Pass/Wesleyan Blvd interchange still had an empty spot which once posted Business Interstate 95 shields.  These were removed when a sign upgrade occurred around 2010.

The Kenly sign is the only known remnant of this short-lived Business Interstate route.  It's not long for this world either as improvements to Interstate 95 will certainly replace this sign in the near future.

Sources & Links:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hidden California State Route 710 and the Pasadena Gap in the Long Beach Freeway

Infamous and the subject of much controversy the Pasadena Gap in the Long Beach Freeway has long existed as a contentious topic regarding the completion of Interstate 710 and California State Route 710.  While the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freeway effectively has been legislatively blocked the action only came after decades of controversy.  While the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freeway is fairly well known what many don't know is that a small segment was actually constructed south Interstate 210 and the Foothill Freeway.  This disconnected segment of the Long Beach Freeway exists as the unsigned and largely hidden California State Route 710.  On June 29, 2022 the California Transportation Commission relinquished California State Route 710 to the city of Pasadena.  The blog cover above depicts a southward view on the completed Pasadena stub segment of the Long Beach Freeway which ends at California Boulevard.   Part 1; the history of the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freewa

Deer Isle Bridge in Maine

As graceful a bridge that I ever set my eyes upon, the Deer Isle Bridge (officially known as the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge) surprisingly caught my eye as I was driving around coastal Maine one Saturday afternoon. About 35 miles south of Bangor, Maine , the Deer Isle Bridge connects the Blue Hill Peninsula of Downeast Maine with Little Deer Isle over the Eggemoggin Reach on ME 15 between the towns of Sedgwick and Deer Isle . It should be noted that Little Deer Isle is connected to Deer Isle by way of a boulder lined causeway, and there is a storied regatta that takes place on the Eggemoggin Reach each summer. But the Deer Isle Bridge holds many stories, not just for the vacationers who spend part of their summer on Deer Isle or in nearby Stonington , but for the residents throughout the years and the folks who have had a hand bringing this vital link to life.   The Deer Isle Bridge was designed by David Steinman and built by the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville,

Paper Highways: Proposed US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas, Nevada

During February 1956 the State of Nevada in concurrence with the States of California and Arizona submitted a request to the American Association of State Highway Officials to establish US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas.  The proposed US Route 66 Alternate would have originated from mainline US Route 66 in Kingman Arizona and followed a multiplex of US Routes 93-466 to Las Vegas, Nevada.  From Las Vegas, Nevada the proposed US Route 66 Alternate would have multiplexed US Routes 91-466 back to mainline US Route 66 in Barstow, California.  The request to establish US Route 66 Alternate was denied during June 1956 due to it being completely multiplexed with other US Routes.  This blog will examine the timeline of the US Route 66 Alternate proposal to Las Vegas, Nevada. The history of the proposed US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas, Nevada On February 15, 1956, the Nevada State Highway Engineer in a letter to the American Association of State Highways Officials (AASHO) advising that six c