WMPO passes resolution to ask NCDOT to explore future I-685 extension

WMPO passes resolution to ask NCDOT to explore future I-685 extension
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 9:07 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Members of Wilmington’s Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted on Wednesday night to ask NCDOT to explore expanding the future Interstate 685 into Wilmington.

Their proposal would expand I-685 from Dunn into Wilmington and upgrade Hwy. 421 to interstate status. That includes widening lanes and making other safety improvements to achieve that status.

Mike Kozlosky, Executive Director of the WMPO, says that southeastern North Carolina could benefit from another interstate.

“Connecting larger population centers, providing for enhanced emergency evacuation, connecting the Port of Wilmington or military installations, as well as providing for enhanced economic development opportunities,” he said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Biden lists a section of 421 between I-85 and I-95 as a high priority for upgrades. WMPO members want that work extended down to Wilmington.

“They look at the interstates and they look at access when they decide to locate their their businesses here,” Kozlosky said. “And so, from a economic development standpoint, to have this future interstate designation would be a positive.”

Not everyone was on board with the interstate expansion plans, some even showing up to voice their concerns.

“Because actually, the proximity to extend 421, to Wilmington is so closely parallel to Interstate 40, that it doesn’t really make sense to have two interstates so close to each other,” said Wilmington Resident Andy Koeppel.

One benefit brought up in Wednesday’s meeting: hurricane evacuation routes. In an area often impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms, another interstate extension could become an important way out of town.

“Evacuations are important, especially in southeastern North Carolina, where we have experienced storms like Florence,” Kozlosky said. “And so to provide our citizens the opportunity to get out of this community in an efficient manner is very important”

WMPO’s request will now head to NCDOT. Until then, they say they’ll encourage other local government officials to get on board with the resolution.

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