NCDOT says work on I-85/U.S. 321 interchange is on schedule

Motorists who travel U.S. 321 at Interstate 85 in Gastonia may have noticed more heavy equipment at work in recent weeks. Construction of the reconfigured interchange should be finished a year from now, with the completion date set for June 21, 2020.

Map of planned changes to I-85/U.S. 321 interchange
Click photo to enlarge

The more than $15 million project does not change the I-85 bridge over U.S. 321 but makes significant revisions to the ramps to and from the interstate. For example, traffic in both directions on U.S. 321 headed to I-85 northbound will loop onto a new entrance ramp that follows an old railroad bed under the interstate before finally merging onto the freeway.

The contractor recently shifted traffic to a new alignment for vehicles on northbound I-85 near the U.S. 321 exit, with grading and paving underway on the ramp to I-85 northbound. NCDOT engineer and project manager Eric Conner says grading has also begun for a new exit ramp from I-85 southbound onto the northbound lanes of U.S. 321 between I-85 and Rankin Lake Road, as well as grading on the new alignment for North Marietta Street and the Bulb Avenue extension.

Map showing traffic patterns and stop lights at future interchange
Click photo to enlarge

Conner says the interchange’s one-of-a-kind design means more traffic shifts are coming. “The current plan is to move the crews to the southbound I-85 direction and tie in the new ramp after completion of the northbound ramp,” he said. “This would again involve a lane shift and temporary barrier wall.”

 The state announced plans in 2017 to reconfigure the busy interchange to ease traffic congestion. More than 100,000 vehicles travel I-85 in Gastonia each day, with another 50,000 daily on U.S. 321. Construction began in August of 2018.