RALEIGH – Because of a $22.5 million federal grant awarded this week, the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to widen and improve 27 miles of Interstate 95 in Robeson and Cumberland counties.
It is the second major federal grant the NCDOT has received since the summer of 2018 to help fund major improvements along the important I-95 corridor.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the department a $22.5 million grant through its Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, program, which helps state and cities build and repair critical pieces of the transportation network.
The BUILD grant will help NCDOT improve mobility, safety and the resiliency of a section of I-95 that has been plagued by flooding in recent hurricanes. It will help fund widening of the interstate between mile markers 13 and 40 – a 27-mile segment from Lumberton to near Hope Mills.
“These grants are highly competitive, and they will help us modernize Interstate 95 in North Carolina,” said Grady Hunt, the N.C. Board of Transportation’s representative from Robeson County. “This is a vital route in our state, and many consider I-95 to be the Main Street of the East Coast.”
In addition to the widening, the NCDOT will raise portions of I-95 in several low-lying areas between mile markers 13 and 40 that are vulnerable to floods; build higher bridges over the Lumber River; and install state-of-the-art flood monitoring technology to better monitor hurricane evacuation routes.
Twice in the last three years, sections of I-95, including in Lumberton, were closed for several days after major hurricanes passed over North Carolina. The BUILD grant will allow the N.C. Board of Transportation to revise the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) schedule and begin construction sooner on the section of I-95.
“We know from experience with recent Hurricanes Matthew and Florence that we have to make our highways and other transportation infrastructure more resilient and less susceptible to major flooding in the future,” said Greg Burns, the division engineer who oversees NCDOT work in Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson counties.
The earlier grant received for I-95 improvements came in June 2018 when a $147 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant was awarded for I-95 and U.S. 70 improvements. The INFRA grant was earmarked for widening two sections of I-95 north of Fayetteville to eight lanes, improving six interchanges, and upgrading sections of U.S. 70 to future Interstate 42 in eastern North Carolina. The grant also will pay for the installation of 300 miles of fiber optic cable along both highways.