Interstate 140 North Carolina
Preliminarily approved as an Interstate highway by the Federal Highway Administration on September 18, 2002, Interstate 140 provides part of the bypass route for U.S. 17 around Wilmington between U.S. 421 west of the Cape Fear River to Interstate 40 south of Castle Hayne. Interstate 140 was added to the North Carolina’s Strategic Highway Corridors map on November 12, 2004.
Interstate 140 was designated initially along a 6.80-mile segment of the Northern Outer Loop around Wilmington. This applied to the freeway from U.S. 17-421 east across the Northeast Cape Fear River to Interstate 40 in north Wilmington. The remaining freeway east of I-40 to Scotts Hill was signed solely as U.S. 17 and later assigned as unmarked North Carolina 140.
The next section of the Outer Loop completed was the north-south stretch of freeway connecting U.S. 17 at Bishop with U.S. 74/76 west of Leland. Lacking the connection with the north leg of I-140, it was designated as North Carolina 140.
Costing $211 million, the final section of I-140 between U.S. 74-76 at Leland and U.S. 421, opened to traffic on December 19, 2017. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the seven mile link on December 15.8 Additional construction, including work on Mt. Misery and Cedar Hill Roads, will continue as part of the Wilmington Bypass project through spring 2018.9 With the opening of the link west from LeLand, I-140 will be fully signed along the entire Outer Loop.
According to the November 12, 2004, North Carolina’s Strategic Highway Corridors map, the Wilmington Bypass freeway was also planned for an extension from U.S. 17 at Bishop east to U.S. 421 south of Wilmington. U.S. 17 was realigned to bypass Wilmington upon completion of the freeway east from U.S. 421 to Scotts Hill. This changed again with AASHTO approval on May 15, 2015 to restore U.S. 17 along what was U.S. 17 Business on Market Street and other roads through Wilmington. Sign changes however were not implemented, pending completion of I-140 across the Cap Fear River.
The state of North Carolina proposed designating Interstate 140 on a separate alignment previously. Involving the conversion of the U.S. 1 freeway from Interstate 40 at Raleigh southwest to U.S. 421 at Sanford, the application sent to AASHTO was disapproved by the Route Numbering Subcommittee on April 16, 1999. The decision cited that significant portions of the route did not meet current Interstate standards. Much of this route was eventually upgraded during mid-2000s construction.
AASHTO approved Interstate 140 at Wilmington on May 30, 2003, and the Federal Highway Administration concurred that the route met Interstate standards in a letter dated December 15, 2008. Signage was placed on completed sections of the bypass route in August 2005.
The first section of Interstate 140 opened to traffic north of Wilmington on August 22, 2005. The three-mile freeway linked Interstate 40 with North Carolina 133 (Castle Haynes Road) near Wrightsboro. Construction of the highway across the Cape Fear River to U.S. 421 continued with a late 2005 expected opening1. However that segment did not open until June 30, 2006.3 The section of freeway between I-40 and U.S. 17 at Scotts Hill was also opened on June 30, 20062,3
Under construction since 2011, the Leland stretch of the Wilmington Bypass was scheduled to open in September 2013. It was delayed. The final two sections, budgeted at nearly $246 million, link the two portions of I-140 between Leland and U.S. 421 in New Hanover County.4 A $125-million contract was let in September 2013 on the portion between Cedar Hill Road in Navassa and U.S. 421. This includes the construction of a 65-foot high bridge over the Cape Fear River. A contract for work between U.S. 74 & 76, west of Leland, and Navassa was awarded by spring 2014 as well. Completion of all work was scheduled for November 2017.5,7 The southern portion of the Wilmington Bypass opened to traffic between U.S. 17 and U.S. 74 & 76 on October 16, 2014.6 It renumbered from North Carolina 140 to Interstate 140 when the Leland to U.S. 421 segment opened in December 2017.
East End – Scotts Hill, NC
West End – Bishop, NC
Mileage – 12.69
Cities – Wilmington
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-140 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
|Exits 1 to 5||3,400|
|Exits 14 to 17||20,000|
|Exits 17 to 20||22,000|
|Exit 20 to US 17||23,000|
Source: 2017 NCDOT AADT Mapping Application
East End – west of Scotts Hill, North Carolina
Former Eastern Terminus – Wilmington, North Carolina
West End – Bishop, North Carolina
Former Western Terminus / Independence Boulevard Extension – Wilmington, North Carolina
- “First leg of bypass set to open.” The Wilmington Star, August 19, 2005.
- “GOV. EASLEY OPENS FIRST STRETCH OF I-140 WILMINGTON BYPASS.” NC Office of the Governor News Release, August 22, 2005.
- “I-140 Wilmington Outer Loop,” Robert Malme.
- “Opening delayed for Leland stretch of Wilmington Bypass.” Port City Daily (Wilmington, NC), August 28, 2013.
- “Leland officials pleased with I-140 plans.” StarNews (Wilmington, NC), September 29, 2013.
- “Southern section of Wilmington bypass to open.” StarNews (Wilmington, NC), October 15, 2014.
- “Brunswick County expected to benefit from I-140 bypass.” StarNews (Wilmington, NC), November 11, 2016.
- “Last stretch of I-140 opens.". StarNews (Wilmington, NC), December 19, 2017.
- “Wilmington I-140 bypass scheduled to open Dec. 15.". StarNews (Wilmington, NC), October 28, 2017.
Page updated on January 11, 2018.