Interstate 85 (I-85) is a major interstate highway in the Southeastern United States. Its current southern terminus is at an interchange with Interstate 65 in Montgomery, Alabama; its northern terminus interchanges with Interstate 95 in Petersburg, Virginia, near Richmond.
Main article: I-85 Corridor
I-85 is a route that serves several major locations in the Southeastern United States, stretching from Alabama to Virginia and major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta and Charlotte.
City map of Auburn, Alabama showing I-85 passing south of it
Interstate 85 begins as a fork off Interstate 65 in Montgomery. From here, I-85 parallels U.S. Route 80 until the highway nears Tuskegee. At Tuskegee, I-85 leaves U.S. 80 and starts to parallel U.S. Route 29, which the highway parallels for much of its length.
I-85 also passes near Auburn, Opelika, Valley and Lanett before crossing the Chattahoochee River into Georgia.
In Georgia, I-85 (unsigned State Route 403) bypasses West Point before coming into the LaGrange area. East of LaGrange, I-85 intersects Interstate 185 which connects to Columbus and Fort Benning. In the Atlanta area, I-85 intersects I-20 and merges with I-75 through the downtown area. North of Atlanta, I-985 provides a link to Gainesville before heading through northeastern Georgia and then crossing into South Carolina.
Interstate 85 provides the major transportation route for the Upstate of South Carolina, linking together the major centers of Greenville and Spartanburg with regional centers of importance. In South Carolina, Interstate 85 bypasses Clemson and Anderson on the way to Greenville. Beginning at Anderson, I-85 widens from four to six lanes. Near Powdersville, U.S. 29 joins I-85 and they run concurrently until they cross the Saluda River. Interstate 85 bypasses just south of Greenville, but provides two links into the city via spur routes Interstates 185 and 385. I-85 also bypasses Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, which serves the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area. I-85 then bypasses the city of Spartanburg to the north where its original route is now signed Business Loop 85 and was approved by AASHTO on April 22, 1995. Near mile marker 70, I-85 intersects with I-26. The exits are signed as exits 70A for east-bound traffic and 70B for west-bound traffic. North of Spartanburg, I-85 narrows from six lanes back to four lanes and bypasses Gaffney. Much of the terrain between Spartanburg and the North Carolina border is rural in nature.
In North Carolina, I-85 enters a relatively rural area near Kings Mountain before entering the Gastonia and Charlotte areas. In Charlotte, I-85 bypasses Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and turns northeastward just before reaching uptown Charlotte; thus I-85 just bypasses uptown to the north where it junctions with Interstate 77. North of Charlotte, the highway passes near Concord, Salisbury, Lexington and High Point before reaching Greensboro. At Greensboro, I-85 shifts away from downtown Business I-85 (old I-85 through town). I-85 then joins I-40 east of downtown, and the two highways are cosigned as they pass through Burlington, Graham and Mebane then separate near Hillsborough where I-40 turns toward Chapel Hill, Cary and Raleigh. From Durham, I-85 turns northeastward and heads toward Virginia.
I-85's terminus at I-95 near Petersburg, VA
Starting from the Virginia border, drivers will pass South Hill and McKenney before heading into a large forest of trees. After the forest, Interstate 85 reaches Petersburg and ends at Interstate 95. The highway is briefly cosigned with U.S. Route 460 from a few miles west of Petersburg in Dinwiddie County to I-95.
In the northern half of I-85, the route roughly parallels an ancient Indian trading path documented since colonial times from Petersburg, Virginia to the Catawba Indian territory.
I-85 near Petersburg once formed the southern end of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, which was completed in 1958. The tolls were removed in 1992 after Interstate 295 was completed.
Before a 2010 decision to raise the speed limit in the state to 70, Virginia's portion of I-85 was also the only Interstate Highway in the state with a posted speed limit greater than 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour). It was raised from 65 mph (105 km/h) to 70 mph (113 km/h) on July 1, 2006, by the state legislature.
In 2004, I-85 was rerouted around Greensboro; and it split with I-40 eight miles (13 km) east of the original departure point. I-40 ran with I-85 along the bypass to the southern/western end and I-40 continued on a new freeway alignment at Exit 121 until September 2008, when it was rerouted back to its old alignment through the city. Despite its reroute around Greensboro, the overall length for I-85 in North Carolina (233 miles/373 km) remains the same as before.
An extension of Interstate 85 is proposed west from Montgomery to interchange with Interstate 20 & Interstate 59 just east of the Mississippi state line., where it will connect with I-20 and I-59 near Cuba, Alabama. This extension will roughly follow the route of U.S. 80, going through or bypassing Selma and Demopolis. The FHWA approved the alignment on February 17, 2011 after AASHTO approved at its Fall 2010 meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. Also approved was the proposal to re-designate part of existing I-85 south and east of Montgomery to be bypassed as part of the extension of I-85 as I-685. Alabama has permission to co-sign this part of I-85 as I-685 until the new alignment is built. This section is also envisioned by some as part of a proposed Interstate 14.
Interstate 85 is scheduled to have several new auxiliary routes in the future. Interstate 285 is also planned to follow part of the U.S. Route 52 freeway from Lexington to Winston-Salem, both in North Carolina. Interstate 785 is currently planned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to run from Greensboro to Danville, Virginia. The proposed route would follow the current U.S. 29 corridor. There are plans for I-85 from Anderson County, South Carolina to Spartanburg County, South Carolina to become four to five lanes in each direction including HOV lanes, if it is funded it will start construction in 2012.
- Interstate 65 in Montgomery, Alabama
- Interstate 185 near LaGrange, Georgia.
- Interstate 285 near College Park, Georgia. I-85 intersects this highway twice.
- Interstate 75 in Atlanta. The two highways run concurrently through much of the city.
- Interstate 20 in Atlanta.
- Interstate 985 near Buford, Georgia.
- Interstate 185 near Greenville, South Carolina.
- Interstate 385 near Greenville.
- Interstate 26 near Spartanburg, South Carolina.
- Interstate 585 near Spartanburg via Business Loop 85. An extension is currently underway that will extend I-585 to I-85.
- Interstate 485 in Charlotte, North Carolina. I-85 intersects I-485 twice.
- Interstate 77 in Charlotte.
- Interstate 40 in Greensboro, North Carolina. They stay connected until Hillsborough, North Carolina.
- Future Interstate 73 in Greensboro.
- Interstate 95 in Petersburg, Virginia. (Map)
- The Interstate Highway is referenced in John Mayer's song "Why Georgia", where the lyrics are "I am driving up 85 in the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon".
- Interstate 85 is seen in the Season 2 premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead when a horde of zombies pass through.
- A rap single based on Interstate 85 was released by Decatur, GA rap duo YoungBloodz on their 1999 debut album Against da Grain titled "85".
- John Mark McMillan sings about finding hope in a desolate city while driving down Interstate 85 in his song "Between the Cracks."
Route map: Google / Bing
- I-85 Extension Corridor Study - Corridor study and environmental impact statement by the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.