Wilmington Bypass

First Section Opened: 2005

Full Completion Date: After 2015?


I-40 to NC 133 Section Opened: August 2005

NC 133 to US 421/ I-40 to US 17 Sections Opened: June 30, 2006

Six Mile Section from US 17 to US 74/76 Under Construction, Due to be Completed in July 2013

History of Wilmington Bypass

Interstate 140 is signed along the western half of the US 17 Wilmington Bypass, a planned 27-mile freeway from US 17 near Scotts Hill westward over I-40 then further west to US 74-76 then south to US 17 near the town of Town Creek. The following map shows the completed sections of the route*:

Image of Map of Wilmington showing route of opened portion of I-140

Map courtesy of Wilmingtontoday.com

Three different construction projects were undertaken to build nearly 12 miles of the Bypass route currently open from Scotts Hill to US 421. Work began on two projects covering the 6.5 mile I-140 section from I-40 to US 421 in mid-2001. The three-mile section from I-40 to Castle Hayne Road (NC 133) was completed first, with the roadway opened to traffic on August 22, 2005.(1) The 3.5 mile section from NC 133 to US 421, including a bridge over the Cape Fear River (named for former Wilmington Mayor Dan Cameron) was opened to traffic on June 30, 2006.(2) Construction on the 5 mile section east of I-40, signed only as US 17 and known as the John J. Burney Jr. Freeway, was started in late 2003 and this section was also opened to traffic on June 30, 2006. (2,3) Interchanges along the I-140 section are for I-40, NC 133 and US 421. When the road opened these interchanges did not have exit numbers, these were added in spring or summer of 2007.(An exit list is below.) A future I-140 interchange is planned for Blue Clay Road (not to be built until after 2023(4)) which will take traffic to the Wilmington International Airport and another is to be built on the section east of I-40 for the planned Military Cutoff Extension, US 17 will actually leave the bypass and travel north on the extension to current US 17 north of Scotts Hill.(5)

Work on the next section from US 421 to US 74-76, approximately 7 miles, was originally scheduled to start in 2009, (6) but this segment's construction was delayed until 2013. Instead what was to be the final section, approximately 5 miles from US 74-76 to US 17 near its intersection with NC 87, was funded through federal stimulus moneys and work began under a design-build contract in late March 2010 (for more detail, see below).(7) As of the end of August 2012 this project was 67.3% complete.(8) Even though the route will not be a complete bypass for US 17 until after 2015, (9) when the segment to US 421 was opened, US 17 was routed over the Bypass and then south on US 421 to its existing alignment for the time being. The former US 17 through Wilmington became US 17 Business. Truck US 17, signed along streets in downtown Wilmington, was decommissioned.(5) The FHWA granted the interstate designation for the entire Wilmington Bypass route on May 31, 2003 including the section east of I-40, it is unknown at this time why NCDOT decided not to sign that portion as an interstate.(10) A proposed Wilmington end-point for I-74 (and a possible spur of I-74, see More about I-74 Here) would meet I-140 where it would intersect the existing US 74-76 freeway.(11)

Here's the current NCDOT schedule for the construction of the I-140/US 17 Western Portion of the Wilmington Bypass (12):

Segment Location Length Start Date Completion Date
A NC 87 SOUTH OF BISHOP TO US 74/US 76 EAST OF MALMO 5.3 miles 2010 July 2013
BA US 74/US 76 EAST OF MALMO TO SR 1430 (CEDAR HILL ROAD) 3.9 miles2013 2015
C WEST OF US 421 TO EAST OF I-40 7.1 miles 2001 June 2006

Photos of I-140 signage (Hover over for Larger Image)

Photo of exit signage for I-140 at interchange with NC 133, July 2006Along NC 133, Castle Hayne Road, nearing the I-140 interchange, July 2006

Photo of exit signage for NC 133 interchange along West I-40 near Wilmington, May 
2006Photo of exit signage for the NC 133 interchange along West I-140, May 2006. Since then exit numbers have been added, this is now Exit 18.

Photo of signage at current end of I-140 at US 421, July 2006. Courtesy of 
Adam PrinceHere's signage at the current end of I-140 at US 421, July 2006. Photo courtesy of Adam Prince.

Photo of Begin East I-140 sign approaching Dan Cameron Bridge in 
Nov. 2007 near Wilmington, Photo courtesy of John Meisenhelder Here's a Begin I-140 sign in the distance as you start crossing the Dan Cameron Bridge going east. Photo courtesy of Jon Meisenhelder.

Photo of End East I-140 sign approaching I-40 interchange in Nov. 2007 near 
Wilmington, Photo courtesy of John MeisenhelderAnd since all things that begin must end, here's the eastbound End I-140 sign at I-40. Photo courtesy of John Meisenhelder, Nov. 2007.

Photo of I-140 milemarker Mile 16 sign in Nov. 2007 near Wilmington, 
Photo courtesy of John MeisenhelderThis is one of the I-140 East mile markers, Mile 16. Photo courtesy of John Meisenhelder,Nov. 2007.

Photo of overhead signage at eastern end of US 17 Wilmington Bypass, July 2006Here's the signage at the start of the Loop in Scott's Hill that reflects NCDOT's decision to leave I-140 off the eastern half of the Wilmington Bypass. (7/06)

An I-140 Extension?

The NCDOT Strategic Highway Corridor map of the Wilmington area shows I-140 being extended 9.5 miles over the proposed Cape Fear Skyway south and east back over the Cape Fear River to US 421. (See map below (13)). This is NCTA's preferred route for the Skyway, one of several proposed projects of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA) and would be constructed as a toll highway. The preferred route of the Skyway bridge would run from Carolina Beach Road at Independence Boulevard south of Wilmington over the Cape Fear River. It would then connect to US 17 through an 8-mile-long extension of Interstate 140 from it's current planned end near Town Creek. This alignment has not been finalized (see below), however, and other routes do not have the toll highway meeting I-140. The project, if officially approved, is expected to cost between $1 and 1.5 billion and would take five years to build, the earliest construction would start is 2013.(14) A feasibility study completed during the summer of 2008 indicated only about 50% of the construction could be funded by tolls. Additional funding from the state would be needed.(15) More information is available at the official NC Turnpike Authority Cape Fear Skyway Page.

Image of map showing one of the proposed routes for the Cape Fear Skyway 
Bridge toll highway, from NC Turnpike Authority 

Change in Next Section to be Built:

NCDOT announced in July 2009 that federal stimulus funds would help start further construction on I-140/US 17. The next section to be constructed though was not going to be from US 421 to US 74/76, Segment "B", but the section between US 74/76 and US 17 near NC 87, Segment "A''. This is a design/build construction project which began in March 2010. The project is planned to be completed by mid-2013. This segment was more 'shovel ready' and able to receive stimulus funds. Segment "B" has another water crossing and was still undergoing right-of-way purchasing. The schedule under the new Loop Prioritization program announced in the Fall of 2011 was that work on the US 421 to US 74/76 section would start in 2013 which means though there will be a gap in the route for at least a couple years. (16) The entire route could open as early as 2015.

Not NCDOT's First I-140 Proposal

This is not the first route NCDOT proposed as I-140. In 1999, officials in Sanford wanted the newly completed US 1 freeway from Raleigh to their city designated an interstate to help attract further business. NCDOT applied to the FHWA to have the freeway designated as Interstate 140. The FHWA rejected the designation, however, saying Sanford was not a large enough urban area to warrant its own interstate highway. Perhaps some day if all of US 1 is made a freeway between I-40 in Raleigh and I-73/74 in Rockingham (as proposed in the NCDOT Strategic Highway Corridors plan) then someone may suggest revisiting a US 1 interstate designation proposal.

I-140 Exit List (17):

Exit 14
US 421 (US 17 South)
Myrtle Beach

Exit 18
NC 133
Castle Hayne

Exit 20A
Carolina Beach

Exit 20B