U.S. 70 between Raleigh and Morehead City plays important roles, including being a primary hurricane evacuation route as well as being a major corridor for freight transport. Future Interstate 42 generally follows the U.S. 70 corridor southeasterly, connecting Garner, Clayton, Smithfield, Selma, Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern and Havelock with the Port of Morehead City.
I-42 will begin at a systems interchange under construction with I-40 and Toll NC 540 (South Wake Expressway) near Garner and follow U.S. 70 southeast toward Smithfield, Selma and I-95. Near Goldsboro, I-42 will overtake the U.S. 70 Bypass around the north side of the city. A new bypass will carry I-42 around the south side of Kinston, connecting with the existing controlled access and freeway portions east to New Bern. Southeast of New Bern, Future I-42 will follow another new bypass to the west of Havelock. Ultimately I-42 will end near the Port of Morehead City.
In addition to connecting Morehead City with the Raleigh area, I-42 would also link Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station to the Interstate system.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) officials at the Fall 2021 meeting approved the request by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for the establishment of Interstate 42 along 21.56 miles across Wayne and Lenoir Counties. NCDOT subsequently received approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on March 16, 2022 to designate I-42 along two separate segments. The western section overlays U.S. 70 for ten miles in Johnston County from I-40 east to U.S. 70 Business / Exit 326 south of Clayton. The eastern section stretches 22 miles covering all of U.S. 70 Bypass to the north of Goldsboro and on a portion of U.S. 70 east to the exchange with NC 903 / Exit 372 near La Grange.5
Converting U.S. 70 to Interstate 42
The remaining controlled-access portions of U.S. 70 between Clayton and Morehead City are gradually being upgraded to freeway standards, and as each new section is constructed or upgraded, they will be submitted for inclusion into the Interstate system. Projects currently underway or planned for Interstate 42 include:
- U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass – from just west of NC 581 in Wayne County to just east of Promise Land Road in Lenoir County. Built in three stages, the western half of the 20 mile long bypass was complete from U.S. 70 in Wayne County to Wayne Memorial Drive by October 2015. The remaining 12.5 mile connection back to U.S. 70 in Lenoir County opened May 27, 2016.4 An additional 6.7 miles of U.S. 70 will be upgraded to Interstate standards
- from the Goldsboro Bypass to Princeton with right of way acquisition starting in 2024 and construction in 2026.
- U.S. 70 Kinston Bypass – previously unfunded per the NCDOT 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Plan,2 the 2018-27 plan allocates $381.1 million for the project. A southern alternative of a U.S. 70 bypass near Kinston was preferred over several northern alternatives. Estimated costs were $181 million.2 Alternative 1SB was selected and a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision are expected in 2022-23. Right of way acquisition is anticipated for 2026 with construction to be determined.
- U.S. 70 Improvements in James City – this project will make improvements to the U.S. 70 corridor through the James City area from south of the exchange with U.S. 17 to south of Garner Road. Construction on the $327.56 million project runs from Spring 2022 to late 2024.
- U.S. 70 Havelock Bypass – from north of the Havelock City limits and extends south for approximately 10 miles to north of the Craven-Carteret county line. At an estimated cost of $167.2 million, construction on the limited access bypass started in September 2019. Work runs through Spring 2024.
Proposed Interstate 42 is part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act high priority future Interstate corridor, which is designated as Corridor 82.