Interstate 95: The Eastern Seaboard's Vital
A Look at the Current State of
One of the Nation's Busiest Interstates
Stretching from Maine to Florida, Interstate 95 is an important
economic engine for the nation, and in the Southeast, it
remains a road under construction.
A bustling ribbon of asphalt, Interstate 95 connects 15 East
Coast states and the District of Columbia and provides a key
transportation route for commerce, travel and hurricane evacuation.
"It's the most traveled route, and it serves the most
densely populated corridor," said Dan McNichol, author
of The Roads That Built America.
"It's a great historical route, cobbled together from
From Houlton, Maine, to Miami, the 1,919.7-mi.-long I-95
represents the longest north-south route in the Interstate
system. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a nonprofit,
educational group, reports that in 2000, 64 million people
lived within 50 mi. of I-95.
With a construction cost of $8 billion, I-95 was one of the
most expensive Interstate routes built. McNichol said that's
due to the number of urban centers it passes through. He added
that throughout the country, urban miles comprise about 12
percent of the system but consumed 50 percent of the budget.
Florida boasts the longest stretch of I-95 with 382 mi. traversing
some of the state's most heavily populated counties along
the Southeast Coast. It passes near six major seaports and
six major commercial airports.
"I-95 and other facilities in this corridor form a primary
route for moving goods and services from Florida to the rest
of the country," said W. David Lee, administrator of
statewide planning and policy analysis for the Florida Department
of Transportation. "It also provides a primary gateway
for people and freight moving between Caribbean and Central
American countries and the United States."
John Baniak, executive director of the I-95 Corridor Coalition,
an alliance of transportation agencies, toll authorities and
related organizations based in Albany, N.Y., called the road
"an important economic engine for the entire country
and in particular for the north-south corridor."
Baniak's organization addresses transportation management
and operations issues affecting the region. He said about
the I-95 corridor, "If you took it and made it an entity
unto itself, it would be the third-largest economy in the
world, with a gross regional product of $4 trillion."
He added that more than half a billion trips of 100 mi. or
more take place on I-95 annually.
"[Building I-95] is a great story and reflects American
history," said McNichol, adding that I-95 mirrors the
historical north-south routes that followed rivers, Native
American footpaths and the Atlantic coast. "You have
Indian trails going to superhighway."
North Carolina began work on I-95 in 1956, around Lumberton,
and finished the highway in 1980. The first section of I-95
opened in South Carolina in 1969 and the final segment in
1976. Georgia began construction of I-95 in June 1965 and
finished its 113 mi. in 1980.
In Florida, a 1959 map indicates a section of I-95 called
the Jacksonville Expressway open. A short section was built
in Miami by 1961, followed by additional sections in Miami-Dade
and Broward counties in 1963. The Sunshine State Parkway from
West Palm Beach to Fort Pierce was designated as I-95 that
Work on I-95 in Florida continued through the 1960s and 1970s.
The state completed the last section from Palm Beach Gardens
to Stuart in December 1987.
Throughout the years, more people and businesses have located
along the I-95 corridor, a trend expected to continue. The
I-95 Corridor Coalition reports that 25 percent of the nation's
projected population growth during the upcoming 20 years will
take place along the corridor. Most of it will occur around
"Traffic demand on I-95 is increasing yearly,"
said Pete Poore, South Carolina Department of Transportation
spokesperson. "Our forward-looking projections indicate
there is a need for additional capacity along the majority
of the 199-mi. corridor in South Carolina to maintain expected
levels of service."
South Carolina, however, currently has no money budgeted
for widening I-95, now primarily two lanes in each direction,
except for a 10-mi. stretch near Florence, which has six lanes.
The SCDOT has submitted an application to the Federal Highway
Administration to participate in a pilot program to add tolls
to the road as a method of paying for improvements that would
Other states are adding lanes, but that may not be enough
to keep this vital link viable.
"There are limitations as to how much capacity can be
added in some sections of the corridor," Baniak said.
He added that the coalition is working to maximize use of
alternative modes of transportation to take the burden off
the highway, as well as incident management and operational
improvements to enhance traffic flow.
North Carolina DOT has begun installing shoulder rumble strips
along several stretches of I-95. It also plans to resurface
a 17-mi. section of the road and realign an off-ramp in Harnett
Near Brunswick, Georgia DOT is completing the last of its
I-95 sections to go to six lanes. The project will finish
By far the greatest amount of current activity is taking
place in Florida, where expansion of this vital route has
accelerated in recent years. Currently, multiple major I-95
improvement projects are in planning, and contracts totaling
more than $600 million are under construction.
In the northeastern part of the state, Hal Jones Contractor
of Jacksonville began a $53 million project in March 2005.
The Jacksonville-area project includes replacing the Trout
River Bridge to add more lanes and is expected to wrap up
in summer 2008. FDOT planned to open bids in April to widen
I-95 north of the bridge.
Atlanta-based Archer Western Contractors is reconstructing
the I-95/I-10 intersection. That $148 million project, which
got started in early 2005, is scheduled for completion in
In Central Florida, Superior Construction Co. of Gary, Ind.,
has begun a $73 million 18.6-mi. widening project in Flagler
County. Just south of that project, the North Division of
Ranger Construction Industries of Winter Garden, Fla., is
widening 6.8 mi. of I-95 in Volusia County. Work began in
January 2004 on the $25 million, 650-day contract.
HNTB Corp. of Lake Mary began a project development and environment
study in 2005 in preparation for the FDOT's six-laning of
43 mi. of I-95 in Brevard and Volusia counties. The state
divided the segment into four sections for design, now under
way. The two additional lanes will be placed in the existing
Kent Black, vice president and division operations officer
for HNTB, said the straightforward construction project will
be heavy in drainage and pond work. Purchase of right-of-way
for retention ponds is budgeted for 2007-09, and construction
on the Brevard sections in 2012.
"It's pretty important to widen I-95 to six lanes because
these are important lanes along the East Coast for hurricane
evacuation, emergency response and just dealing with the volume
of traffic," Black said.
Farther south, the state is spending $350 million to expand
I-95 from six to 10 lanes from Gateway to PGA boulevards in
Palm Beach County. The projects create a high-occupancy vehicle
lane and a general-purpose lane in each direction.
Hubbard Construction Co. of Orlando expects to complete the
first $34 million section this summer. Hubbard also is working
on a $44.9 million, 2.9-mi. section, scheduled for completion
in 2007, and a $75.8 million, 4.23-mi. segment, with a bridge
replacement, scheduled to wrap up in 2009.
PCL Civil Constructors of Tampa is working on a $67 million,
2.6-mi. segment expected to finish in September. Astaldi Construction
Corp. of Davie is building another 1.8-mi section and is scheduled
to complete the $58.9 million project in April 2007.
Archer Western received a $34 million contract to make improvements
to the I-95/State Route 80 interchange, scheduled for completion
in October, and a $74 million contract to build 4.58 mi. of
additional lanes and widen a bridge by September 2008.
Florida's Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate
I-95 Mobility 2000