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I-485 (cancelled)  Georgia (link)

This 8-lane freeway would have gone from the I-85/GA 10 interchange to an interchange at the proposed I-475 at Carter Center; then north to I-285 at US 19/GA 400 (Perimeter Center). Some parts of the planned I-485 were built: GA 400 inside the beltway, and a short stub downtown that's now used for the Freedom Parkway. [2note] [3note]

Planned in the early 1960s, it was still being fought in 1971. [2note]


I-485  North Carolina (link)

16.70 miles [1note], officially, as of October 2002. But more miles have opened to traffic since then. As of Oct. 19, 2004, a 46-mile continuous stretch is helping traffic skirt Charlotte and travel among its suburbs. [29note]

This new road, nicknamed the Outerbelt, is under construction around Charlotte. It first broke ground in the late 1980s, and some sections open to traffic are already congested. I-485 is planned to be complete around 2008, at a total cost of $1.1 billion and length of 67 miles.

Mecklenburg County N.C. Transportation Board representative Seddon "Rusty" Goode Jr. had been advocating an "outerbelt" for Charlotte since 1978. In 1988, after part of its route was selected, Goode lobbied for interstate status, either I-477 or I-485. [8note] On July 8, 1988, Gov. James G. Martin turned the first spadeful of dirt on the 16.6-mile southern leg and announced that the road would be I-485. "I bet you thought this day would never come," he said, "but good things come to those who wait." [9note]

On Oct. 4, 1996, AASHTO approved extending the I-485 designation, from its present terminus north of Charlotte, counterclockwise 29.7 miles to I-77 south of the city. [30note]

Work begins

In late 1989, work on the 4-level "Spaghetti" interchange at I-77 south of town started. The 1.3 mile section between US 521 and NC 51 opened on November 1, 1990. [11note] In January 1993, a 35-mile section (unconstructed) of I-485 was named the James G. Martin Expressway. This created a bit of a flap, but not enough for Martin to decline the honor (Tobacco lobbyist and Larouchite foreign policist Jesse Helms did request that a new section of interstate near Winston-Salem not be named after himself).

In 1993, proposals surfaced to make I-485 a toll road, to speed construction of the rest of it by about 10 years; however, it lost steam later that year. On October 24, 1994, a two-mile stretch connecting the 100-foot-high I-77 interchange and South Blvd. opened, connecting the existing 1.3-mile section to I-77. [14note] Meanwhile, plans to build a $2 billion outer-outer belt, which would go through 13 counties, were quashed by Gov. Jim Hunt, who called the idea "farfetched" and cut off funding for further study. [13note]

In early 2000, it was expected that funding would be delayed; the EPA had cited Charlotte in violation of clean air regulations. Federal funding for highway projects in the area would be withheld until a plan is developed to improve air conditions. [5note]

In mid-2001, the Outerbelt schedule benefited from $76 million in funding lost by two other road projects that had been delayed. If construction goes as planned, the date for completion of the entire freeway will be moved two years earlier, from 2010 to 2008. [6note]

If construction was not delayed, Charlotte expected to have I-485 complete between I-85 to the north and I-85 to the south by July 2003. Now this is planned for October 2003. [24note]

The 12.5-mile N.C. 49 to Lawyers Road segment suffered some vexing delays in summer 2003. Originally planned for July, the opening date slipped three times because of rain and equipment problems. A portion opened in September and the rest opened in November (see "Ribbon Cuttings", below).

Ribbon Cuttings

To try for clarity, I've added directions like [S] for the southern end, to differentiate between highways that intersect I-485 twice.

  • [S] US 521 (South Blvd.) to NC 51, 1.3 miles, Nov. 1, 1990. [11note]
  • [S] I-77 to US 521, 2 miles, Oct. 24, 1994. [14note]
  • [S] to NC 16, 2.3 miles, Aug. 15, 1997. [16note]
  • [SW] NC 49 to I-77, 1.5 miles, early 1998. [20note]
  • [SW] Arrowood Road to NC 49, 2 miles, Aug. 26 and 27, 1998. [21note]
  • [SE] US 74 to Idlewild Road, 2.3 miles, Dec. 21, 1999. (6 months early) [4note]
  • [NE] I-85 to NC 49, 2.5 miles, July 2000. 8 lanes wide. [20note]
  • [SE] Idlewild Road to Lawyers Road, 2 miles, June 2001. [20note]
  • [W] Arrowood Road to I-85: 7 miles, $100M, Oct. 19, 2004. [29note]
  • [W] I-85 to N.C. 27, opens late 2005. [22note]
  • [NW] North of N.C. 27 to Oakdale Road, opens late 2005. [22note]
  • [NW] East of Oakdale to N.C. 115, opens spring 2007. [22note]
  • [N] East of N.C. 115 to I-85, opens mid-2010. [22note]
  • [E] N.C. 49 to Albemarle Road, 7.5 miles, Sept. 3, 2003. [24note] (was to be July 2003 [23note])
  • [E] Albemarle Road to Lawyers Road, 5.0 miles, Nov. 19, 2003. [25note] (was to be July 2003 [23note])
  • [SE] Weddington Road interchange opens 2007. [22note]

We built it, and they came

By 1997, I-485 traffic was already overwhelming sections of the 4-lane road. Drivers were screaming for 6 or 8 lanes, and planners planned to build most remaining sections with 6 lanes. [15note] The diamond interchange at NC 16 (Providence Rd) has already been revised, with loop ramps added. [20note]

In early 2004, it became apparent that many present and future stretches of I-485, along with connecting highways, would be overwhelmed with traffic greater than expected. Officials in the Charlotte area and at NCDOT are pointing fingers over a highway that was, in hindsight, underdesigned.

For example, county commissioners originally told NCDOT that I-485 in the southeast would pass through rural areas and have low traffic. Accordingly, the state built a four-lane highway that most now agree should have had eight lanes. Without pinning the blame on one agency, one can see that fast growth in the area outpaced the necessarily longer design and build cycle. [27note]

See also:

Other Charlotte Observer articles for I-485:

  • "Commuters Maneuver I-77 Work: 4 Levels Of Traffic Will Crisscross When Intersection Is Complete In '92", December 14, 1990.
  • "Outerbelt Now Links U.S. 74, I-77, Uptown" September 15, 1997.
  • "Filling in the belt's gaps: 2.3-Mile stretch of I-485 set to open next week." Dec. 15, 1999.


  1. Route Log and Finder List - Interstate Highways, FHWA, Oct. 31, 2002.
  2. Hebert, Richard. Highways to Nowhere. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., 1972.
  3. King, Michael. "Atlanta Interstate Development." Post to misc.transport.road, Feb. 7, 1996.
  4. Curley, Chris. "New Section of I-485 Opens." Post to misc.transport.road, Dec. 21, 1999.
  5. Lansford, John. "485 Funding Delayed." Post to misc.transport.road, Jan, 28, 2000.
  6. "N.C. to hasten work on 3 big road projects: Delays in Asheville, Winston-Salem free up money for loop road." Charlotte Observer, June 9, 2001 (thanks to Brad Johnson for the fwd)
  7. "Will Outerbelt Be An Interstate?" Charlotte Observer, March 17, 1988.
  8. "Outerbelt Dubbed I-485: Construction On Road Project Officially Under Way." Charlotte Observer, July 9, 1988.
  9. "Opening Day: Traffic Will Flow On First Section Of I-485 Outerbelt", Charlotte Observer, November 1, 1990.
  10. "Hunt Wants No Money Spent On Roadway: Governor Calls $2 Billion Proposal Farfetched.", Charlotte Observer, January 16, 1993.
  11. "Stretch Of I-485 Outerbelt Opens Today, Linking I-77, South Blvd.", Charlotte Observer, October 24, 1994.
  12. "Future I-485 Sections May Be 6-Laned: Traffic Already Triples 2000 Projection." Charlotte Observer, October 3, 1997.
  13. "A Welcome Link: New Section Of Outerbelt A Big Deal For Union County.", Charlotte Observer, August 15, 1997.
  14. Tanner, Richard. "Interstate 485 Information." Personal email, July 17, 2002.
  15. Steffora, Matt. "NCRoads.com: I-485." NCRoads.com: North Carolina Highways... http://www.ncroads.com/interst/ih485.htm (21 Aug. 2002)
  16. "Outerbelt Construction Map." Charlotte Observer, Oct. 31, 2002.
  17. "Year of road upgrades features I-485 openings." Charlotte Observer, Dec. 26, 2002.
  18. "Opening today adds 7.5 miles to eastern I-485." Charlotte Observer, Sept. 3, 2003. (thanks to Adam Prince)
  19. "I-485 arc takes shape: 5 miles in Mint Hill may spur greater development." Charlotte Observer, Nov. 20, 2003.
  20. "Design of I-485 called flawed." Charlotte Observer, Feb. 29, 2004.
  21. "Newest I-485 leg worsens traffic on oldest I-485 leg." Charlotte Observer, Oct. 30, 2004.
  22. AASHTO SCOH. Report to the Special Committee on Route Numbering to the Executive Committee. Oct. 5, 1996.