Interstate 74 North Carolina
As of June 2013, Interstate 74 exists in three sections in North Carolina: (1) near Mount Airy, (2) from Interstate 40 at Winston-Salem south to Ellerbe, a portion of which is concurrent with Interstate 73, and (3) between Laurinburg and Lumberton. Additional miles are planned in the coming years, even though it may be decades before North Carolina’s Interstate 74 connects with Interstate 74 in the Midwest.
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 Interstate 74 still ends in Cincinnati, it is unlikely that the freeway will continue east toward Huntington, West Virginia, any time soon. At the same time, Interstate 74 is not signed in either Virginia or South Carolina either.
The first section of Interstate 74 in North Carolina follows the 13-mile Mount Airy bypass east from Interstate 77 near the Virginia state line. South of Toast and Mount Airy, this segment of Interstate 74 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 Reassurance markers for I-74 were placed along the freeway (signed originally as North Carolina 752) by 2001. Cosigning of Interstates 74 & 77 along their 4.6-mile overlap occurred in April 2001.
Future Interstate 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 will receive I-74 shields upon upgrading to full Interstate standards.
The proposed Winston-Salem Northern Beltway will carry Interstate 74, 17.1 miles around the northeast side of the city to U.S. 311 near Union Cross. Initial construction between U.S. 421 / Business Loop I-40 and Reidsville Road (U.S. 158), was scheduled to start in 2014.3 NCDOT awarded a $33.2 million contract for a 1.9 mile section of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway project in December 2017. Work from January 2018 to November 2021 includes grading, draining work, bridge construction and signing along future I-74 from U.S. 311 to U.S. 158.21
Southeast from Winston-Salem, Interstate 74 overlays the U.S. 311 freeway from near Union Cross to High Point, Archdale, New Market and Randleman. 12.2-miles of U.S. 311 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, 19975 and from there to Business Loop I-85 & U.S. 29-70 on November 20, 2004.6 This stretch of highway was signed as Interstate 74 when the Archdale bypass opened on November 22, 2010 after three years of construction.7
The most recent section of Interstate 74, opened on June 7, 2013 at a cost of $99.7-million, joining the freeway end at Glenola with Interstate 73 at Randleman.8 This completes Interstate 74 between Forsyth County and Ellerbe in southern North Carolina, which doubles as U.S. 220 south from Randleman.
U.S. 220 was redesignated as Interstates 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 Interstates 73 & 74 until the June 2013 opening of the stretch 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 southward from Ellerbe to the north of Rockingham.
A new alignment will take Interstates 73 & 74 southwest from U.S. 220 to the current west end of the U.S. 74 Rockingham Bypass. Construction on the north leg of the bypass commenced on March 3, 2014. Upgrades for U.S. 220 south to a new trumpet interchange with Harrington Road are scheduled for completion in April 2018.11
Until early 2016, the U.S. 74 freeway along the south side of Rockingham was signed with Future Interstate signs east to the eventual split of I-73 south near N.C. 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.
East End – Lumberton, NC
West End – Pine Ridge, NC
Mileage – 75.03
Cities – Mt. Airy, Winston-Salem, High Point, Randleman, Asheboro, Ulah, Candor, Ellerbe, Rockingham, Laurinburg, Lumberton
Junctions – Future
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
19.17 miles on I-73
Right of way acquisitions have already taken place for the new 10.5-mile link between Interstates 73 & 74 south of Ellerbe and the west end of the Rockingham Bypass (U.S. 74). New I-73 & 74 will veer southwest from U.S. 220 at Northside Drive to combine with U.S. 74 at its split with U.S. 74 Business.
The Laurinburg and Maxton bypasses were both signed as Interstate 74 starting in November 2008. Due to the freeway not adhering to Interstate standards, sign changes removing I-74 assemblies along both freeways were made by mid 2009.12
The third segment of I-74 resumes east of Maxton 19 miles to Lumberton. Completed September 26, 2008,10, the freeway transitions into an at-grade highway 6.2 miles south of North Carolina 41. Funding in the 2016-25 State TIP included upgrading U.S. 74 to the existing I-74 in Robeson County.17 However project work to bring U.S. 74 up to Interstate standards through Scotland County was not funded in the 2018-2027 Draft STIP for NCDOT Division 8.18
A $7.5 million project was awarded in October 2017 for the conversion of the intersection at U.S. 74 and Broadridge Road in Robeson County into an interchange. Associated work reconfigures the intersection with Creek Road, 1.5 miles to the south, into a directional crossover. The two-year project started after November 27, 2017.19 Beyond Robeson County, U.S. 74 angles southeast to Chadbourn, where the route combines with U.S. 76 for a bypass of Whiteville.
At Chadbourn near the current intersection of U.S. 74 and U.S. 76, a proposed but unlikely easterly extension of Interstate 20 was slated to tie into Interstate 74. I-20 ends in Florence, South Carolina but was envisioned to combine with I-74 between Chadbourn and Bolton via Whiteville en route to a proposed end at Wilmington. The governor of North Carolina introduced the new routing of Interstates 20 and 74 in his Strategic Transportation Plan for Southeastern North Carolina on May 5, 2003.
Following North Carolina 211 south from Bolton to Supply, the I-74 corridor turns westerly along the path of U.S. 17 to South Carolina and the Carolina Bays Parkway (South Carolina 31). A northeast to southwest route with six lanes, Carolina Bays Parkway parallels the Grand Strand area of Myrtle Beach along a 24.5 mile highway. Following three years of construction, the freeway opened to traffic on December 17, 2002.11
The South Carolina routing of Interstate 74 follows all of the Carolina Bays Parkway, which doubles as future Interstate 73 from the South Carolina 22 (Conway Bypass) southwest to its current end at S.C. 544 (Dick Pond Road) near Socastee. Carolina Bays Parkway provides an inland bypass of U.S. 17 and the Grand Strand from South Carolina 9 southwest to S.C. 544. The first leg of the parkway completed was the portion between S.C. 9 and U.S. 501. Costing $232-million, the 20-mile route opened to traffic on December 17, 2002.13 Next, opened on December 15, 2004, was the six-lane freeway extending South Carolina 31 southwest 4.6 miles from U.S. 501 to S.C. 544.14 A 3.8-mile extension of the parkway will take both routes southwest to U.S. 17 at Georgetown. Ground breaking of that portion took place on November 6, 2013. Expected to cost between $225-237 million, the S.C. 31 extension is estimated for completion by spring of 2017.15
Plans for the eastern terminus of Interstate 74 have changed substantially since 1995, when Interstate 74 was proposed to be extended east. The original ISTEA/NHS legislation indicated that Interstate 73/74 would have continued beyond Georgetown southwest into Charleston, but that was removed (per the TEA-21 law passed in 1998).
A joint study by the North and South Carolina Departments of Transportation commenced in September 2017 for the Carolina Bays Parkway Extension. The proposed route begins from S.C. 31 at S.C. 9 in Horry County, South Carolina and ends at U.S. 17 near Shallotte in Brunswick County, North Carolina. Alternatives for the estimated $551.7 million project should be proposed in 2019.20
High Priority Corridor
North Carolina’s two sections of Interstate 74 are part of High Priority Corridor 5: I-73/74 North-South Corridor. Its designation in North Carolina is written into law.
The first time Interstate 73 and Interstate 74 were submitted to AASHTO for approval was at the Special Committee on Route Numbering meeting of April 19, 1996. At that meeting, North Carolina submitted three requests under Section 332(a)(2) of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995. None of the three requests were approved at that particular meeting:
- Establish Interstate 73 – “Beginning at the intersection of U.S. Route 220 at the Virginia State Line, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of State Route 68 northwest of Greensboro, then southerly over U.S. Route 68 (sic) to the intersection of Interstate Route 40 in Kernersville, then southeasterly over I-40 to the intersection of U.S. Route 220 in Greensboro, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of U.S. Route 1 in Rockingham, then southwesterly over U.S. Route 1 to the South Carolina State Line.” The action to establish this route was continued at the April 1996 meeting, and it was subsequently amended in future iterations by North Carolina and adjacent states.
- Establish Interstate 74 – “Beginning at the intersection of Interstate Route 77 at the Virginia State Line, then southerly over I-77 to the intersection of U.S. 52 south of Mount Airy, then southeasterly over U.S. Route 52 to the intersection of U.S. Route 311 in Winston-Salem, then easterly and southeasterly over U.S. Route 3111 to the intersection with U.S. Route 220 in Randleman, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of U.S. Route 74 in Rockingham then southeasterly over U.S. Route 74 to the intersection of U.S. Route 76 in Whitehall, then westerly over U.S. Route 76 to the South Carolina State Line.” The action to establish this route was continued at the April 1996 meeting, and it was subsequently amended in future iterations by North Carolina and adjacent states.
- Establish Temporary Interstate 74 – a request was made to establish a temporary designation along U.S. 52 from Interstate 40 north 11.22 miles to the intersection with North Carolina 1840. This request was disapproved in favor of “To Interstate 74.”
Once the proposals for Interstate 73 and Interstate 74 were resubmitted in a joint proposal by Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, AASHTO approved them as Interstate Highways via a mail ballot completed on July 25, 1996. The results of this ballot were approved as part of the meeting of October 5, 1996. The routes were modified into the following descriptions:
- Establish Interstate 73 – “Beginning at the intersection of Interstate Route 81 and Interstate Route 581 north of Roanoke, Virginia, then southeasterly over I-581 to the intersection of U.S. Route 220 at the Virginia State Line, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of State Route 68 northwest of Greensboro, then southerly over U.S. Route 68 (sic) to the intersection of Interstate Route 40 north of High Point, then southeasterly over I-40 to the intersection of U.S. Route 220 in Greensboro, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of U.S. Route 1 in Rockingham, then southwesterly over U.S. Route 1 to the intersection of State Route 9 near Cheraw, South Carolina, then southerly over S.R. 9/38 to the intersection of U.S. Route 501 near Marion, then southerly over U.S. Rout(e) 501 (sic) to the intersection of U.S. Route 701 in Conway, then southwesterly over U.S. Route 701 to the intersection of U.S. Route 17 in Georgetown, then southerly over U.S. Route 17 to the terminal interchange of Interstate Route 26 in Charleston, South Carolina.” The southern terminus of this route, along with certain other segments, would be modified in the ensuing years.
- Establish Interstate 74 – “Beginning at the intersection of Interstate Route 81 and Interstate Route 77 east of Wytheville, Virginia, then southerly over I-77 to the intersection of U.S. Route 52 south of Mount Airy, then southeasterly over U.S. Route 52 to the intersection of U.S. Route 311 in Winston-Salem, then easterly and southeasterly over U.S. Route 3111 to the intersection with U.S. Route 220 in Randleman, then southerly over U.S. Route 220 to the intersection of U.S. Route 74 in Rockingham then southeasterly over U.S. Route 74 to the intersection of a new facility to be constructed west of Whiteville, then southerly over the new facility to the intersection of U.S. Route 17 southwest of Wilmington, then southwesterly over U.S. Route 17 to the intersection of proposed Interstate Route 73 at a point yet to be determined in near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.”
Laurinburg to Lumberton Segment – Eastern Terminus – – Lumberton
Mt. Airy Segment – Eastern Terminus – – Mount Airy, North Carolina
Historic Perspective of Asheboro Segment – Eastern Terminus – – Candor
Winston-Salem to Ellerbe – Eastern Terminus – – south of Ellerbe
Mt. Airy Segment – Western Terminus – Virginia state line – near Pine Ridge, North Carolina
Winston-Salem to Ellerbe – Western Terminus – – Winston-Salem
Laurinburg to Lumberton Segment – Western Terminus – – East of Maxton
- “I-77 Link Means Lost Business, Owners Fear.” Winston-Salem Journal, July 11, 1998.
- “Ready to Road Test Long-Awaited Connector to I-77 is Expected to Open Today.” Winston-Salem Journal, July 1, 1999.
- “Road to the future.” Winston-Salem Journal, March 4, 2013.
- “THE ROAD LESS WANTED – NOT EVERYONE ENJOYED THE VIEW WHEN A KEY HIGHWAY OPENED FROM HIGH POINT TO WINSTON-SALEM 20 YEARS AGO.” Greensboro News & Record, February 29, 2004.
- “NEW U.S. 311 BYPASS UNVEILED.” Greensboro News & Record, September 19, 1997.
- THE REAL DEAL ON THE NEW BYPASS.” Greensboro News & Record, November 20, 2004.
- “I-74/U.S. 311 bypass opens.” WMBF News, November 22, 2010.
- “Final Section of U.S. 311 Bypass Opens in Randolph County.” North Carolina Department of Transportation, press release. June 7, 2013.
- “U.S. 220 Widened Near Seagrove.” Greensboro News & Record, August 28, 1996.
- I-73 Segment 10/I-74 Segment 11 (Bob Malme)
- SCDOT – Inside SCDOT – Carolina Bays Parkway
- I-74 Segment 16 (Bob Malme)
- “The Drive Behind New Highways.” Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC), December 18, 2002.
- “Drivers May Cruise To S.C. 544.” Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC), December 15, 2004.
- “Official: Ground breaking for S.C. 707 widening and S.C. 31 extension to restore faith in the system.” Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC), November 6, 2013.
- “Re: Interstate 73/74” online posting by bob7374, AARoads Forum, February 26, 2016.
- “Re: Interstate 73/74” online posting by bob7374, AARoads Forum, November 19, 2015.
- “Four New Projects for Division 8 in Updated Draft Transportation Plan.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), news release. June 29, 2017.
- “State Continues to Improve U.S. 74 in Robeson County.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), news release. November 2, 2017.
- “Carolina Bays Parkway Extension study begins.” StarNews (Wilmington, NC), September 13, 2017.
- “Construction Starting on Additional Section of Northern Beltway.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), news release. December 6, 2017.
- “Re: Interstate 73/74” online posting by bob7374, AARoads Forum, December 21, 2017.
- “Re: Interstate 73/74” online posting by bob7374, AARoads Forum, January 8, 2018.
Page updated January 12, 2018.