INTERSTATE

A stretch of U.S. 264 between Wilson and Greenville will be signed as Interstate 587 next year.

A 37-mile section of U.S. 264 between Wilson and Greenville has received federal approval to become Interstate 587.

The new interstate, which will include new signage next year, will improve access around Wilson and provide Greenville with interstate access, said Andrew Barksdale, N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman.

Prior to the designation, Greenville was one of the largest cities in the United States not served by an interstate, Barksdale said.

The 37-mile stretch of roadway through Wilson, Greene and Pitt counties is located between I-95 and I-795 in Wilson County to the N.C. 11 and U.S. 264 interchange in Greenville, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The I-587 designation that took years of work prior to federal approval is expected to make travel easier and also increase the likelihood of economic development in eastern North Carolina.

“It’s important we continue to improve highway access and promote economic development in eastern North Carolina,” said Melvin Mitchell, a Rocky Mount member of the N.C. Board of Transportation.

Efforts to bring U.S. 264 to interstate standards began after the completion of I-795 in Wilson several years ago, Barksdale said.

In 2016, the Federal Highway Administration and American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials conditionally approved the state’s application to add U.S. 264 between Zebulon and Greenville to the future I-587. Once the work to upgrade the highway was completed, DOT received full approval for the interstate designation.

Upgrading U.S. 264 has included widening and resurfacing the highway and the completion of an 18-mile section between the Wilson County line and the Stantonsburg Road/Southwest Bypass interchange in Greenville.

Thomas Taft Jr., who represents the Greenville area for the N.C. Board of Transportation, said Tuesday interstate connectivity is a critical economic development tool that helps with recruiting industry and business, and without it, industries typically avoid areas without nearby interstate access.

“From this point forward we can expect continued growth for our existing industries and a more competitive outlook for new opportunities that will now be in play simply because of our interstate connection,” Taft said.

“I’m beyond pleased that after 50-plus years without interstate connectivity to Greene and Pitt counties, the day has finally come for us to announce the official addition of I-587 to the United States Interstate Highway program. Through the incredible efforts of our DOT staff in Divisions 2 and 4, alongside state leadership, eastern North Carolina can proudly show its new shield to the world.”