As of June 2013, Interstate 74 is designated along three sections in North Carolina: (1) near Mount Airy, (2) from I-40 at Winston-Salem south to Richmond County, a portion of which is concurrent with I-73, and (3) between Laurinburg and Lumberton. Additional segments are planned or under construction, including the Rockingham Bypass and beltway around Winston-Salem.
Interstate 74 was first proposed for extension into West Virginia and the Carolinas with the passage of the National Highway Designation Act of 1995. While the original I-74 still ends in Cincinnati, it is highly unlikely that the route will continue east toward Huntington, West Virginia. I-74 is not signed in either Virginia or South Carolina either.
The first section of Interstate 74 in North Carolina follows the Mount Airy bypass 13 miles east from I-77 near the Virginia state line. South of Toast and Mount Airy, the segment through Surry County opened initially between I-77 and U.S. 601 on July 14, 19981 and from U.S. 601 to U.S. 52 on July 1, 1999. Construction on the $78.8-million roadway took eight years.2 I-74 replaced North Carolina Route 752 along the freeway by 2001. The 4.6 mile long concurrency with I-77 north to the state line was signed in April 2001.
Future I-74 Corridor signage remains in place on U.S. 52 between the east end of the Mount Airy section to northern reaches of Winston-Salem. This section of freeway remains below full Interstate standards.
The Winston-Salem Northern Beltway will carry I-74, 17.1 miles around the northeast side of the city to I-74 (former U.S. 311) near Union Cross. Initial construction between U.S. 421 (Salem Parkway) and Reidsville Road (U.S. 158), was scheduled to start in 2014.3 The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) awarded a $33.2 million contract for a 1.9 mile section of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway project in December 2017. Work starting in January 2018 included grading, draining work, bridge construction and signing along future I-74 from U.S. 311 to U.S. 158.21
The first stretch of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway opened to traffic on September 5, 2020. Designated NC 74, the four mile section links U.S. 421 (Salem Parkway) with U.S. 158 (Reidsville Road). Originally scheduled for completion in November 2021, the succeeding two miles of NC 74, from U.S. 158 to U.S. 311, opened on December 23, 2020.27 NC 74 will become I-74 once all six sections on the eastern side of the Beltway are completed.24
Southeast from Winston-Salem, Interstate 74 replaced U.S. 311 along a freeway from I-40 near Union Cross to High Point, Archdale, New Market and Randleman. Designated as part of U.S. 311 until 2018, the first 12.2-miles of the freeway, from southeast Forsyth County to the Guilford County line, opened on March 6, 1984.4 The High Point Bypass extended that route southward as a limited access highway 3.7 miles to Eastchester Drive (NC 68) on September 18, 1997,5 and from there to Business Loop I-85/U.S. 29-70 on November 20, 2004.6 This stretch was signed as Interstate 74 when the Archdale bypass opened on November 22, 2010, following three years of construction.7
The succeeding section of Interstate 74 opened on June 7, 2013 at a cost of $99.7-million. This linked the freeway end at Glenola with I-73 at Randleman.8 It also completed I-74 between Forsyth County and Ellerbe in southern North Carolina.
U.S. 220 was redesignated as I-73/74 in the mid-1990s from U.S. 64 at Asheboro southward to Candor. The 12.6-mile stretch from Ulah through Seagrove opened on August 27, 1996 at a cost of $47.5-million.9 The freeway north from U.S. 64 at Asheboro to Randleman was signed as Future I-73/74 until June 2013, when the route opened northwest to High Point.
17 miles of new freeway for U.S. 220 opened south from Candor to Ellerbe on January 7, 2008.10 This portion, while built to Interstate standards, was signed as a Future route until March 2013.3 Future corridor signs accompany the non-freeway portion of U.S. 220 south of Ellerbe to Rockingham.
A new alignment will take I-73/74 southwest from U.S. 220 to the west end of the U.S. 74 Rockingham Bypass. Construction for 3.7 miles of the northern leg of the bypass commenced on March 3, 2014. Completed in June 2018, work upgraded U.S. 220 south to a new trumpet interchange with Harrington Road.11
Until early 2016, the freeway along U.S. 74 across the south side of Rockingham was signed with Future Interstate signs east to the planned split of I-73 south near NC 38.22 The February 2016 edition of the NCDOT STIP revised the entry for the I-73/74 Bypass in Richmond County. The listing included funding for construction of I-73/74 slated for 2022. Work running through 2025 was expected to coincide with upgrades to U.S. 74 east to Interstate standards from Rockingham to Hamlet.16 However funding was not secured until the 2018-2027 Draft STIP, which outlines $70.2 million for construction of the new Rockingham Bypass from U.S. 74 Bypass north to Zion Church Road (SR 1140), and $74.5 million from SR 1140 north to Harrington Road (SR 1304). Both are projected to start in 2026.18,22
A portion of U.S. 74 remains an at-grade highway between the Hamlet bypass and the Laurinburg Bypass. West of Laurinburg, U.S. 74 upgrades to a freeway east to Maxton. The initial 14 mile segment is designated Future I-74, awaited planned upgrades to Interstate standards, estimated for 2027 and beyond.