Interstate 140 North Carolina
Interstate 140 is the designation for the Northern Outer Loop / Wilmington Bypass in southeastern North Carolina. The freeway loop originates from a trumpet interchange with U.S. 17 to the west of Wilmington at Bishop in Brunswick County. I-140 heads north across an area of wetlands and forest to U.S. 74/76 at Leland, where it curves east toward Navassa and the viaduct system spanning the Cape Fear River.
East into New Hanover County, I-140 meets U.S. 421 at the western approach to the Dan Cameron Bridge, a high level span crossing the Northeast Cape Fear River. The bypass passes north of Wilmington International Airport (ILM) between Wrightsboro and Castle Hayne. Signs for I-140 end the route at the exchange with Interstate 40, just east of U.S. 117/N.C. 132. The remainder of the Wilmington Bypass east to U.S. 17 (Market Street) at Kirkland is marked as North Carolina State Route 140.
With full funding announced by Pender County on September 6, 2018, construction proceeded in 2019 on the Hampstead Bypass. Split into two sections, the $113 million project builds a 13-mile long limited access highway north from N.C. 140 to N.C. 210 at Hampstead, and from there northeast to U.S. 17 beyond Topsail. Work at N.C. 140 builds a half turbine interchange midway between I-40 and U.S. 17 at Scotts Hill. Completion of the bypass is anticipated for 2025.10
The state of North Carolina proposed designating Interstate 140 previously along the U.S. 1 freeway from U.S. 421 at Sanford northeast to I-40 at Raleigh. The application sent to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) was disapproved by the Route Numbering Subcommittee on April 16, 1999. The decision cited that significant portions of the route did not meet Interstate standards. Much of the U.S. 1 freeway was eventually upgraded during construction in the mid 2000s.
The Wilmington Bypass was preliminarily approved as an Interstate highway by the Federal Highway Administration on September 18, 2002. AASHTO approved Interstate 140 for the Northern Outer Loop on May 30, 2003. It was added to the North Carolina’s Strategic Highway Corridors map on November 12, 2004, including an unbuilt extension east from U.S. 17 at Bishop to U.S. 421 south of Wilmington.
The first section of Interstate 140 opened to traffic north of Wilmington on August 22, 2005. The three mile long freeway linked Interstate 40 with N.C. 133 (Castle Haynes Road) near Wrightsboro. Construction of the highway across the Cape Fear River to U.S. 421 continued with a scheduled opening expected in late 2005.1 However that segment was not ready for traffic until June 30, 2006.2 The section of freeway between I-40 and U.S. 17 at Scotts Hill also opened on June 30, 2006.2,3
Interstate 140 was designated initially along a 6.80-mile segment of the Northern Outer Loop from U.S. 17-421 east across the Northeast Cape Fear River to Interstate 40 north of Wilmington. The remaining freeway east of I-40 to Scotts Hill was signed solely as U.S. 17 and later assigned as unmarked N.C. 140. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) concurred that the route met Interstate standards in a letter dated December 15, 2008.
The next section of the Northern Outer Loop constructed was the north-south stretch of freeway connecting U.S. 17 at Bishop / Town Creek with U.S. 74/76 west of Leland. It opened to traffic on October 16, 2014.4 Lacking the connection with the north leg of I-140, it was designated as North Carolina Route 140.
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, linked the N.C. 140 segment south from Leland with the signed portion of I-140 east from U.S. 421 in New Hanover County.5 A $125-million contract was let in September 2013 on the section between Cedar Hill Road in Navassa and U.S. 421. This included 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 2017.6,7
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 N.C. 140 south from Leland to U.S. 17 was subsequently renumbered as Interstate 140. Additional construction, including work on Mt. Misery and Cedar Hill Roads, continued as part of the Wilmington Bypass project through Spring 2018.9
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)
Source: 2018 NCDOT AADT Mapping Application
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 until 2018, following the completion of I-140 across the Cape Fear River.
East End – west of Scotts Hill, North Carolina
N.C. 140 extends 5.2 miles east from the I-40 center line to the merge with U.S. 17 north ahead of Scotts Hill. Construction started in 2018 along this stretch builds a half turbine interchange with the U.S. 17 Hampstead Bypass, a limited access highway extending north to N.C. 210. Photo taken 01/19/19.
A series of J-turns line U.S. 17 leading southwest to the exchange with N.C. 140. Prior to 2015, U.S. 17 accompanied the John Jay Burney, Jr. Freeway west to U.S. 421 to circumvent Wilmington. The former route along Market Street was U.S. 17 Business until the state returned U.S. 17 through the city. Photo taken 01/19/19.
Former Eastern Terminus – Wilmington, North Carolina
West End – Bishop, North Carolina
Similar to the east end of I-140, construction of the trumpet interchange (Exit 39) with U.S. 17 west of Lanvale included the realignment of the US route to accommodate the exchange. Photos taken 01/19/19.
Former Western Terminus / Independence Boulevard Extension – Wilmington, North Carolina
The Dan Cameron Bridge connected the temporary west end of I-140 with U.S. 421 by industrial areas north of Wilmington. Photos taken 11/11/06.
U.S. 17 previously overlapped with U.S. 421 two miles southward from I-140 to U.S. 76 west of Wilmington. Photo taken 11/11/06.
A begin shield for Interstate 140 stood along the entrance ramp from U.S. 421 to the Dan Cameron Bridge across the NE Cape Fear River. Until 2015, U.S. 17 followed all of the 12-mile freeway between U.S. 421 and U.S. 17 Business near Scotts Hill. Photo taken 06/24/10.
Joining Wilmington with Clinton to the north on a parallel alignment to I-40, U.S. 421 (Independence Boulevard Extension) connected with the temporary end of I-140 and U.S. 17 south of Wards Corner. Photo taken 11/11/06.
U.S. 421 follows Independence Boulevard Extension northward from U.S. 17/76 near Belville to Interstate 140 at the Dan Cameron Bridge. Photo taken 06/24/10.
- “First leg of bypass set to open.” The Wilmington Star, August 19, 2005.
- “I-140 Wilmington Outer Loop,” Robert Malme.
- “Gov. Easley Opens First Stretch of I-140 Wilmington Bypass.” NC Office of the Governor News Release, August 22, 2005.
- “Southern section of Wilmington bypass to open.” StarNews (Wilmington, NC), October 15, 2014.
- “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.
- “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.
- “Hampstead Bypass now fully funded, construction to begin soon.” Port City Daily (Wilmington, NC), September 6, 2018.
Page updated on August 22, 2019.