Road building takes a long time. Politics, money and regional competition often come into play. Planning for Fayetteville’s Outer Loop began in the 1980s. The first phase of the project from I-95 north of Fayetteville to U.S. 401/Ramsey Street opened 20 years later, in 2005. The final local sections of the future interstate will be completed in less than three years. By 2022, the roadway will extend through southern Cumberland County into Robeson County near St. Pauls. When finished, the 39-mile project will have cost $1 billion, according to North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Andrew Barksdale.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 hastened construction of the Outer Loop in two ways. Military authorities asked the state department of transportation to accelerate the local project. Military officials had asked for years that the state provide Fort Bragg direct access to I-95 for the orderly movement of troops and equipment in response to world events requiring the 82nd Airborne Division to respond.
The DOT diverted funds initially set aside for a highway project in Charlotte for the Fayetteville Outer Loop, now designated as future I-295. The loop will provide unprecedented interstate connectivity for the region and already provides Fort Bragg a direct connection to I-95. Completion of the segment from Bragg Boulevard to Ramsey Street was a key factor in the Army post’s plan to close Bragg Boulevard through the post.
Work on the section from Ramsey Street to the All American Expressway was completed in three stages: from Ramsey Street to Murchison Road, which was completed in August 2016; from Murchison Road to Bragg Boulevard, which was completed in August 2014; and from Bragg Boulevard to the All American Expressway, which was completed in December 2016.
DOT said the Fayetteville Outer Loop is critical for the region in that it will not only support the military, it will also promote continued economic growth and strengthen North Carolina’s ability to attract and retain business and industry. DOT said other benefits include reducing the volume of traffic on portions of the local street network; connecting major routes in the south, west and north portions of Fayetteville; and providing an additional crossing of the Cape Fear River.
The next section of the roadway from the All American Expressway to Cliffdale Road is under construction now and is expected to open to traffic in October of this year. Then comes construction of the segment from Cliffdale Road to Raeford Road. NCDOT awarded an $85.2 million design-build contract in June 2016 for that 3.1-mile stretch.
Design-build allows all aspects of a project from design through construction to be completed under a single contract. Work also includes replacing the Lake Rim bridge on Old Raeford Road over Bones Creek. It should be completed by May of 2021, according to DOT.
Remaining segments of future I-295 south of Fayetteville will not be finished until 2022. But for practical purposes, the Outer Loop will provide local residents easy access from I-95 North all the way to Raeford Road, which is precisely what major city highway loops are designed for.