Interstate 85 in Virginia

Interstate 85 in Virginia traverses 68.64 miles from the North Carolina border in Mecklenburg County, to the interchange with I-95 in the city of Petersburg. I-85 serves the towns and cities of South Hill, Dinwiddie and Petersburg. I-85 was built near to and parallel to an existing major interregional highway, US-1 from North Carolina to the city of Petersburg.

The terrain I-85 crosses is gently rolling to rolling Piedmont terrain in the central Southside region the state. I-85 serves the corridor from the Richmond-Petersburg area to the major cities in central North Carolina, and to Atlanta, Georgia. Virginia I-85 crosses no major transportation barriers. Portions of I-85 and I-95 in the Petersburg area also serve as a bypass for east-west Arterial US-460, and it is signed as US-460 in addition to the Interstate signing.

I-85 crosses mostly rural areas, much of it forested areas with a high percentage of pine trees. It runs just east of the town of South Hill, a town of about 4,500 population. I-85 also passes a half dozen other villages, including Dinwiddie. The northern terminus of I-85 is the interchange with I-95 in Petersburg. The City of Petersburg has 42,000 population, and the entire Tri-Cities metropolitan area (Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell and suburbs) has about 130,000 population.

The first section of I-85 to open to traffic was in August 4, 1958 with the 4.3-mile-long section from US-1 in Dinwiddie County to I-95 in Petersburg; actually this was the I-85 portion of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike (RPT). The 15.2-mile-long section from the North Carolina border to US-1 just north of South Hill opened in Nov. 1965, and this was called the South Hill Bypass at the time. The 21.3-mile-long section from VA-40 at McKenney to US-1 west of Petersburg opened in August 1969, and this joined into the RPT. The 27.9-mile-long section from US-1 just north of South Hill to VA-40 at McKenney opened on Oct. 21, 1970, closing the last gap in I-85 and completing it through Virginia. I-85 traverses 664 miles from Montgomery, Alabama to Petersburg, Virginia, and the last 36 miles of the entire route opened in 1982, the bypass of Lexington and High Point, North Carolina, marking completion of the entire route in the U.S.

Traffic volumes on I-85 in Virginia are fairly consistent. VDOT 1997 traffic volume data follows. Figures are published rounded to the nearest 100. At the North Carolina border, the highway carries 22,000 annual average daily traffic (AADT) with 23% large trucks. The 41-mile-long section from US-58 at South Hill to VA-703 at Dinwiddie carries ranging from 18,600 to 19,600 AADT with 20% large trucks, and the lower volumes are in the central part of that section from VA-630 in Brunswick County to VA-650 in Dinwiddie County. The 16-mile-long section from VA-703 at Dinwiddie to I-95 in Petersburg has successively increasing volumes, with 28,000 AADT just east of US-1 just west of Petersburg, to 39,000 just west of the I-95 interchange.

All of I-85 in Virginia was built with 4 lanes, and none of it has been widened, and there are no widening plans as of 2000.

An I-85 relocation and bypass of Petersburg was planned at one time, and that is documented in my Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike (I-95/I-85) and I-295 article. See David "ZZYZX" Steinberg's Interstate 85 page for description of the national I-85 route.

New interchange added to the original I-85: In the city of Petersburg, Squirrel Level Road in 1988.

Main page of Interstate Highway System in Virginia.

Copyright 2000-2003 by Scott Kozel. All rights reserved. Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created 5-31-2000, updated 12-20-2003)