GREENVILLE – A section U.S. 264 in eastern North Carolina recently has received federal approval to become Interstate 587 after the N.C. Department of Transportation made several improvements.
The new interstate runs between I-95/I-795 in Wilson County to N.C. 11/U.S. 264 interchange in Greenville, totaling 37 miles across Wilson, Greene and Pitt counties. The department widened and resurfaced part of the highway to help bring it up to interstate standards. Before this designation, Greenville was one of the largest cities in the U.S. not served by an interstate.
The I-587 designation, which is many years in the making, will make travel easier and should bolster the area's economic development prospects.
“I'm beyond pleased that after 50-plus years without interstate connectivity to Greene and Pitt counties, the day has finally come for us to announce the official addition of I-587 to the United States Interstate Highway program," said Thomas Taft, Jr., who represents this Greenville area for the N.C. Board of Transportation. “Through the incredible efforts of our DOT staff in Divisions 2 and 4, alongside state leadership, Eastern North Carolina can proudly show its new shield to the world."
The new designation also will boost interstate access around Wilson, said Melvin Mitchell, a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation from nearby Rocky Mount.
“It's important we continue to improve highway access and promote economic development in Eastern North Carolina," Mitchell said.
Work to bring U.S. 264 up to interstate standards began several years ago with the completion of Interstate 795 in Wilson. In 2016, the Federal Highway Administration and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials conditionally approved the state's application to add U.S. 264 between Zebulon and Greenville to the future I-587. Once the work to upgrade the highway was completed, NCDOT received full approval for the interstate designation.
The work to upgrade U.S. 264 included widening and resurfacing the highway. Just this year, an 18-mile section, between the Wilson County line and the Stantonsburg Road/Southwest Bypass interchange in Greenville, was improved and completed six months ahead of schedule.
“Interstate connectivity is one of the most critical economic development tools in our chest and without it, many companies will simply look past all the other amazing attributes our communities can bring to bear. From this point forward we can expect continued growth for our existing industries and a more competitive outlook for new opportunities that will now be in play simply because of our interstate connection," Taft said.
Greenville Mayor PJ Connelly echoed those sentiments.
"It is very exciting to see Interstate 587 progressing," Connelly said. "This has been an economic development goal of the city of Greenville for quite some time, and we are eagerly awaiting the impact that it will have on our area in terms of economic prosperity and growth."
The department is working to update the signing plans before installing the new I-587 signs next year.