GASTON COUNTY, N.C. -- It’s merging mayhem in Gaston County every afternoon rush hour on I-85. 

140,000 cars drive through that section of interstate every day. The State Department of Transportation is now planning to expand 10 miles of interstate three years early.

"Anyone who drives that area is familiar with the congestion challenge," said NCDOT spokesperson Jen Thompson.

The expansion from Highway 273 in Belmont to Highway 321 in Gastonia was scheduled to begin in 2024. Now, 2021.

The plan is to expand the interstate from three to four lanes in each direction. This includes having to redo several bridges and rail crossings.

The price tag is $257 million.

DOT is planning on holding public hearings this summer to address any concerns over the project. The state also plans to expand the rest of I-85 from Highway 321 to the state line, but there is no date scheduled for that.