Interstate 485 North Carolina
Interstate 485 is the Charlotte Outer Loop serving Mecklenburg County and metropolitan Charlotte. The 67-mile beltway is both a bypass route for I- 77 and I-85 and a commuter route for the Mecklenburg County suburbs. Mileposts originate at the four-level interchange with I-77 in south Charlotte. Exit numbers increase clockwise.
The origins of the beltway began with planners in 1975. Powered by N.C. Board of Transportation member Seddon “Rusty” Goode starting in 1978,1 the often controversial freeway did not see construction until 1988 when work commenced on the southern leg.2 The beltway opened in stages to June 5, 2015, when the last section opened to traffic. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved the final link of the beltway as I-485 on May 15, 2015.
I-485 was originally envisioned as a four lane rural freeway. However, area development surrounding the oldest stretch of Interstate 485 in south Mecklenburg County eventually pushed traffic counts to 107,000 vehicles per day (vpd). This constituted the 10th most heavily traveled highway in the state at the time. Anticipating further growth, succeeding sections of the beltway were built with six or eight lanes.2 The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) opted to use both cardinal directions and inner and outer belt signs along the Interstate 485 beltway. Mile markers are placed every two-tenths of a mile.1
Construction started in March 2019 (STIP project I-5507) will add a tolled Express Lane in each direction of Interstate 485 between the systems interchange with I-77 and the Monroe Expressway (Toll U.S. 74). The State Transportation Improvement Program funded the $289.5 million project in 2015. The lanes will be implemented by the N.C. Turnpike Authority and include a new interchange at Weddington Road in Matthews and improvements to the exchange with John Street (Exit 52). Work runs through 2022.
East End – Charlotte, NC
West End – Charlotte, NC
Mileage – 66.68
Cities – Charlotte
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-485 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
As of March 2002, two sections of Interstate 485 were open to traffic: Three miles of the northeastern section connecting I-85 with N.C. 49, and the southern section linking N.C. 160 west of I-77 with N.C. 51 east of Charlotte. Interstate 485 was extended northeast to Lawyers Road, north of U.S. 74, by August 2002. Construction continued to N.C. 218. (Thanks to Ayan Kayal for providing the construction update.)
An additional 7.5 miles of the Charlotte Outer Loop, between Albemarle Road (N.C. 24-27) and N.C. 49, were completed on September 3, 2003. A series of weather related delays pushed back the planned opening of this segment initially from July 1 to mid-August 2003.3 Joining I-85 with University City, the six lane freeway took 2.5 years to complete and cost $55.4 million.4 Interchanges along this section were built at Rocky River and Harrisburg Roads.
Interstate 485 was slated to open five miles from N.C. 49 to Lawyers Road at Mint Hill by mid-October 2003. However engineering difficulties encountered with bridge design4 as well with problems associated with plans for sewer pipes hampered work on the segment.5 Delays caused by heavy rains during the Winter and Spring of 2003 pushed the planned opening beyond the scheduled date of July 1. The Mint Hill segment of I-485 ultimately opened to traffic on November 19, 2003. This ribbon cutting increased the total mileage of Interstate 485 to 39 miles, or about 60 percent complete.2
The aforementioned weather delays also pushed back the construction schedule on the southwestern leg of the Charlotte Outer Loop. This 7.4-mile section extended I-485 to Wilkinson Boulevard and Interstate 85.2 Anticipated to open in December 2003 and then March 2004, the Beltway between I-77 and I-85 finally did October 19, 2004.6 Interchanges along the stretch were built at Arrowood Road, N.C. 160 (Steele Creek Road), Wilkinson Boulevard and I-85. The $100 million, six-lane project also provided an alternate route to Wilkinson Boulevard for Billy Graham Parkway (former U.S. 521) into Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).5 With 47 miles finished at this time, Interstate 485 was 70% complete.3
Construction of the cloverstack joining I-85 and I-485 in western Charlotte. The exchange opened on October 19, 2004, when the beltway debuted to motorists southward to Arrowood Road (Exit 3) and Interstate 77. Photo taken 10/05/01.
As of November 2004 every portion of the overall 67-mile loop was open or under construction with the exception of the six-mile segment from N.C. 115 (Old Statesville Road) to Interstate 85 in northeast Charlotte. The unexpected growth that coincided with the construction of Interstate 485 swelled traffic counts to 112,000 vehicles per day (vpd) across areas of south Mecklenburg County. This resulted in expanding the design of the succeeding freeway segments with additional lanes and better interchanges to augment problems with development and increasing traffic expectations.1 Furthermore, a $14.7-million contract was awarded in 2004 to add an additional lane in each direction between Interstate 77 and Arrowood Road.5 That expansion project was completed in 2006.
The next beltway section, from Interstate 85 north to N.C. 27 (Mount Holly Road), was scheduled to open in July 2005. A series of delays over an 18 month period extended construction until December 15, 2006.7,8 This portion of I-485 includes the roundabout interchange at Moore’s Chapel Road, the only of its kind on the Charlotte Outer Loop.
The extension of Interstate 485 from N.C. 27 (Mount Holly Road) north to N.C. 16 (Brookshire Boulevard) opened to traffic on May 8, 2007.9 Work simultaneously was underway along the northernmost reaches of Interstate 485 near I-77 at Huntersville. Started in December 2003, construction and weather delays pushed completion back two years3 to December 5, 2008. Costing $94 million, this portion of I-485 lengthened the beltway east to I-77 and N.C. 115 at Exit 23C.2 Pending FHWA concurrence, AASHTO conditionally approved 11.95 miles of Interstate 485 clockwise from I-85 clockwise to I-77 on May 15, 2009.
The final segment of Interstate 485 built was the northeastern quadrant. Officials sought to accelerate work on the last 5.7 miles of I-485, from N.C. 115 east to I-85. If stimulus finds were secured in 2009, work was anticipated to start that year and end in 2012. The $231.7-million segment encountered several delays, pushing back scheduled opening of the freeway from December 2014 to Spring 2015.10 It was then announced on May 13, 2015 that a ribbon cutting ceremony would take place on June 5, 2015 around noon,11 officially completing Interstate 485.
Proposed interchanges at Oakdale Road in the northwest quadrant and N.C. 51 in the southeast quadrant at Mint Hill were not included in original construction of Interstate 485. This was because those areas were undeveloped, reducing the need for interchanges at that time.5 The postponement of work at N.C. 51 was requested by the town of Mint Hill. Several residents however petitioned the local government to rescind that request and have the interchange constructed. Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers was opposed to this, citing that the highway was only two lanes with traffic counts of just 8,200 vehicles per day (vpd). Biggers felt that the opening of I-485 would alleviate pressure from N.C. 51, as motorists used the route to access nearby Albemarle Road.12 The diamond interchange with N.C. 51 eventually opened by 2005.
The exchange at Oakdale Road was graded but remained unopened until July 2015, when NCDOT awarded a $4.8 million contract to finish the dumbbell interchange. Work followed a 1999 study that recommended completing the ramps once development spread to 75 percent of the land within a half mile radius of the crossroads with I-485. Construction wrapped up on the new exit in November 2016.13
East End – Charlotte, North Carolina
Inner Loop east at
East End Throwback
West End – Charlotte, North Carolina
West End Throwback
Exit 30 defaulted traffic to Interstate 485 southbound until December 15, 2006, when the section north to N.C. 27 (Mount Holly Road) was finished. Photos taken 05/30/05.
- “I-485 about to bring real I-85/I-77 bypass.” Charlotte Observer (NC), August 29, 2004.
- “I-485 arc takes shape.” Charlotte Observer (NC), November 20, 2003.
- “Eastern leg of the outerbelt delayed.” Charlotte Observer (NC), August 1, 2003.
- “Opening today adds 7.5 miles to eastern I-485.” Charlotte Observer (NC), September 3, 2003.
- “Key link in I-485 just days away.” Charlotte Observer (NC), October 9, 2004.
- “I-485 opens in west Charlotte.” Charlotte Observer (NC), October 19, 2004.
- “Opening on I-485 pushed back again: Repairs, final inspection needed on 2 new exits; new target is for about mid-December.” Charlotte Observer (NC), December 4, 2006.
- “9:43 am – New outerbelt section coming Friday.” Charlotte Observer (NC), December 14, 2006.
- “New Leg of I-485 to Open in Northwest Mecklenburg County Tuesday.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), news release.
- “Completion of I-485 Outer Loop In Mecklenburg County Scheduled For Spring 2015.” NCDOT, news release. October 24, 2014.
- “NCDOT Announces Opening Date for Final Segment of I-485.” NCDOT, news release. May 13, 2015.
- Lansford, John. “I-485 interchange delay questioned.” Online posting, misc.transport.road, October 12, 2003.
- “NCDOT Awards Contract to Complete I-485 Interchange with Oakdale Road.” NCDOT, news release, July 9, 2015.
Page updated May 23, 2019.