Highway US-421 should be very proud of itself because it’s expected to move up in the world and get a name change that will start with “Interstate.”

The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has begun an effort to promote the highway to an interstate, and local, state and federal officials are expected to line up behind the change that would bring numerous upgrades to the road – ones that are required in order for an unassuming highway to earn an impressive “I” in front of its name.

The change, if approved at the federal level, would mean new signage, new interchanges, surface upgrades, shoulder enhancements and many other upgrades that are required for a road to become an interstate highway.

As one of the first steps in the process, the NCDOT is asking the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to support the move and the board is expected to do so whole-heartedly at its next meeting on Thursday, Jan 17.

Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing said this week that Guilford County was one of the counties being asked to support the move since US-421 runs through the county.

He also said the change, if approved, will take years to complete given the tremendous amount of work expected.

“You’re talking about a long, long-term project,” Lawing said.

According to Lawing, US-421 is already further along than many roads when it comes to qualifying as an interstate-caliber highway.

“421 is really pretty high-level now except for some of the interchanges,” the county manager said. “It’s a nice four lanes.  If you didn’t know it, on certain sections, you might think you were on an interstate.”

The federal Interstate Highway System – officially known as The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways – is a collective roadway system that was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.  It’s named after Eisenhower because he was a major advocate for the massive highway system.

The network has undergone constant expansion over the years and the inclusion of US-421, which runs from Fort Fisher, NC to Michigan City, Indiana, would add to it.  The Interstate Highway System already includes about 50,000 miles of highway with a cost of construction estimated to be about $500 billion.