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.