First portion of I-485 Opens

November 1, 1990

Dignitaries gathered on a newly paved stretch of road November 1, 1990, to officially open the first portion of long-debated Interstate 485. The first segment, 1.3 miles long, bypassed Pineville and linked U.S. 521 and N.C. 51.

Charlotte's earlier transportation achievements had been received with community-wide enthusiasm. The railroad, airport, and Interstates 85 and 77 were seen as engines for growth by a city on the move. But people weren't as certain about this massive new road-building project called the Outerbelt.

Interstate 485 -- the Outerbelt -- was conceived in controversy and mired in politics. It inspired heated debates over the region's future growth, spawned neighborhood organizations determined to preserve their communities, and stimulated billions of dollars in new development.

For years there was controversy over which route the Outerbelt should take. City officials pushed for an Innerbelt north of N.C. 51. Highway officials argued that the best route was south of N.C. 51, an Outerbelt. In the end, highway officials won. There was even a serious proposal to make it a toll-road.

Outerbelt construction opened the way for massive new shopping centers, upscale neighborhoods of million dollar homes, even entire new shopping, office and residential communities such as Ballantyne. Heavy traffic generated by new development choked the highway as quickly as segments opened.

When the final segment of the Outerbelt's eastern leg is finished this fall, the road will carry traffic forty miles from Arrowood Road to I-85 near UNCC. Next spring the segment will open between Arrowood Road and I-85 near the airport.

The entire sixty-seven-mile Outerbelt is scheduled for completion in 2010 or 2011. Some contend the superhighway, often choked with traffic, is already obsolete.

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