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|I-3 good luck with that|
I-3 appears explicitly in the "Interstate 3/3rd Infantry Division Highway Initiation Act" of 2004." Legislation to study the corridor (which did not assign a number specifically) came in the 2005 "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)". Interstate 3 is described to run from Savannah GA to Knoxville, TN
In order to reach Knoxville, the general routing of I-3 would be along the corridors of NC 69; US 64 to Murphy; US 129 to Tennessee. Anyone with a passing knowledge of western North Carolina would realize that building an interstate along the US 129 corridor north of Topton would be extremely expensive.
In 2012 the study authorized in 2005 was released - link. It presented 4 potential corridors with options. Three of the four corridors involve passing through North Carolina: the one described above; one where it enters NC at Rosman and runs more or less directly to Cherokee and follows US 441; one where it follows US 25 from SC to TN.
The study only made a price estimate at the one corridor that avoided North Carolina - $4.8 billion (2012). This is because Section 3.7 of the report dismisses the North Carolina corridors as fatally flawed (terrain and Smoky Mountain National Park causing huge cost problems).
This would suggest that I-3 will not be coming to North Carolina.
And if it somehow did, it would make more sense to number it as an extension of I-81 to keep it numbered consistent with the national grid.