10 months later, 100% better — enjoying the I-885 Connector

We all know how long major infrastructure can take between conception and completion, and the I-885 Connector is certainly no exception, having been first discussed in the 1950s. We also know that the years of waiting, planning and preparing for a critical project quickly transition to a positive sense of accomplishment, as the community begins to enjoy the benefits of new mobility and accessibility.

The I-885 Connector is perhaps the prototypical big things in small packages project. Interstates 85 and 40 converge west of the metropolitan Triangle, but there was no logical freeway linkage between them in the heart of the metro area for decades. The June 2022 opening of the I-885 Connector – with only one mile of new location roadway – became the linchpin in unlocking regional free flow connectivity.

While creating the new direct freeway link was the primary purpose of the roadway, the Connector now affords our region a host of community development, innovation, and regional connectivity benefits:

  • Creates direct linkage between two primary Interstate freeways – I-40 and I-85 – in the heart of the Triangle region
  • Saves more than 10 minutes for travelers between northern areas and Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in North America
  • Provides new, more direct freeway route north to the mid-Atlantic states from multiple communities with over 50,000 people, including Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill
  • Serves as a de facto Durham eastern beltway, and a more resilient freeway network overall
  • Creates new direct linkage between I-85 and the Triangle Expressway toll road network, the first modern toll facility in North Carolina
  • Completes a stoplight-free corridor in the heart of the Triangle between I-85 in Durham and the US 421 freeway (future I-685) in Sanford – a distance of nearly 50 miles
  • Includes the first interchange with a roundabout instead of traffic signal in metro area (Carr Rd)
  • Relieves traffic congestion and through traffic from downtown streets in Durham

The I-885 Connector was the top priority of this regional business leadership group for many years due to its promise of new and needed regional connectivity. While the project was officially called the “East End” connector due to its location in relationship with downtown Durham, we invariably referred to it as the “Triangle Connector to I-85” in the years prior to its opening to highlight its regional importance. Construction of the Connector began in 2015 and finished in 2022 as noted above. RTA also held a field visit tour one month before the connector official opened and was present at the ribbon cutting.

Talent attraction and retention are always important to the regional business community. The new I-885 Connector gives people back their most precious resource – their time – while creating or facilitating opportunities and reducing barriers to prosperity.

Multimodal freeway projects like the I-885 Connector which help bring regional connectivity are exactly what the growing Triangle area needs and what the business community strongly advocates for.

Let’s get moving,


Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA executive director

RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation


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