Preferred Alternative Map
Detailed Study Alternatives Map
Project Fast Facts
  • Status: Projects Under Development
  • County: Wake, Johnston
  • Type of Project: New toll freeway
  • STIP Number: R-2721, R-2828, R-2829
  • Estimated Cost: Approximately $2.2 billion
Public Involvement
Complete 540

Project Overview and Purpose

The proposed "Complete 540" project, also known as the Southeast Extension, would extend the Triangle Expressway from the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex to the U.S. 64/U.S. 264 Bypass in Knightdale, completing the 540 Outer Loop around the greater Raleigh area.

Transportation, social and economic demands and mobility considerations are the basis for additional transportation infrastructure in southeastern Wake County. The "Complete 540" project would link the towns of Apex, Cary, Clayton, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Raleigh. In addition to connecting several towns and cities, the project is anticipated to ease congestion on area roadways, including I-440, I-40, N.C. 42, N.C. 55 and Ten Ten Road.

Complete 540 consists of three separate NCDOT projects (R-2721, R-2828, and R-2829) that are combined for the current planning and environmental study. Construction will likely be done in phases that correspond to these three individual projects. Depending on available funding, each project will likely have different construction time lines.

Estimated Cost

The cost of the project is currently estimated to be approximately $2.2 billion based on the anticipated year of construction for each section of the overall project. This cost estimate will be refined as the project development process progresses. It is anticipated that the project would be funded in phases:

  • R-2721 – N.C. 55 Bypass to U.S. 401
  • R-2828 – U.S. 401 to I-40
  • R-2829 – I-40 to U.S. 64/264 Bypass (I-495)

Latest News and Updates

April 2016: NCDOT announced that Detailed Study Alternative 2 was selected as the preferred alternative for the project. The route goes from west to east and combines the proposed orange, green (southern portion), mint and green (northern portion) corridor segments.

The decision follows public input and coordination with federal, state and local agency partners. The route was selected as the preferred choice because it:

  • Is formally supported by all local governments
  • Minimizes the number of relocations of homes and businesses, compared to other alternatives
  • Avoids impacts to the Swift Creek watershed critical area (a source for Raleigh’s drinking water)
  • Avoids the Clemmons Educational State Forest
  • Avoids impacts to historic resources
  • Minimally affects only one local park

Feb. 17, 2016: NCDOT gave a presentation on Complete 540 to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to give background on the project, NCDOT's recommended Preferred Alternative and next steps.

February 2016: NCDOT recommended "Detailed Study Alternative 2" as the preferred alternative for the Complete 540 project to federal and state agency officials. From west to east, this route contains the orange, green (southern portion), mint and green (northern portion) corridor segments.

NCDOT's federal and state agency partners will now provide formal comments about the Department’s recommendation. NCDOT will then review those comments and make any necessary changes before announcing the official preferred alternative to the public this spring.

November 2015: The Federal Highway Administration approved the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the Complete 540 project.

The Draft EIS summarizes the field work and technical studies completed for the project’s Detailed Study Alternatives. The document includes a discussion of the potential project impacts to the human and natural environment within the study area. (View the Draft EIS.)

Project Schedule

Complete 540 Project Schedule*
Final EIS ApprovedMid-2017
Record of Decision PublishedLate 2017
Construction Contract Awarded for R-2721 (NC 55 Bypass to U.S. 401)Fiscal Year 2017-2018
*Subject to change.


April 2016 NCDOT selected Detailed Study Alternative 2 (orange-green-mint-green) as the preferred alternative for the project.
February 2016 NCDOT recommended Detailed Study Alternative 2 as the Preferred Alternative for the project.
December 2015 NCDOT held public meetings and a public hearing regarding the Draft EIS.
November 2015 The Complete 540 Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published and followed by a public comment period (Nov. 9 until Jan. 8).
2014 Various engineering, planning, and environmental studies were undertaken and completed for the Detailed Study Alternatives.
December 2013 NCDOT announced the alternatives that will be studied in detail in the DEIS. These alternatives are known as the Detailed Study Alternatives.
October 2013 NCDOT presented all alternatives to the public to review and comment on during a series of public meetings. Based on the comments received from the public, state and federal agencies, and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, NCDOT decided to study all of the recommended alternatives in detail. These alternatives are known as the Detailed Study Alternatives (DSAs) and are shown on the Detailed Study Alternatives Map (August 2014).
September 2013 NCDOT published Draft Alternatives Development and Analysis Report, including list of recommended Detailed Study Alternatives.
July 2013 NCDOT resumed all environmental study activities for the project.
June 2013 North Carolina General Assembly enacted House Bill 10 (Session Law 2013-94) and House Bill 817 (Session Law 2013-183) to remove previous restrictions on studying the Red Corridor. Governor Pat McCrory signed these bills into law allowing NCDOT to resume the environmental study.
December 2012 FHWA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter requiring full evaluation of the Red Corridor. This evaluation is required for the project to remain eligible for federal funds and to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The project could not be constructed without meeting these requirements.
March 2011 North Carolina Session Law 2011-7 restricted NCDOT’s ability to evaluate the Red Corridor.
Late 2009 Environmental study began.
1996-1997 In accordance with the NC Transportation Corridor Official Map Act, NCDOT established a protected corridor for the portion of 540 between N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex and I-40 near the Johnston/Wake County line. A protected corridor preserves the location of a new road from encroaching development.

Contact Information

Project Hotline: (800) 554-7849
Mailing Address:
1548 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1548

Resources for Local Property Owners

In many cases, it is inevitable that a certain amount of private property must be acquired. The displacement of homes and businesses is minimized to the extent practicable. The following brochures will answer questions about this process.