The Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge carries Interstate 74 across the Mississippi River. The westbound span was opened in 1935 with two-way traffic. The eastbound span was added by 1959.1 The suspension bridge carried U.S. 6 prior to the designation of I-74, which was added to the span once the freeway approaches were constructed in 1974.2 Tolls were collected at the crossing until January 1, 1970.
Interstate 74, a diagonal (northwest to southeast) freeway, serves the Upper Midwest, Southern Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley area. Beginning in Iowa at a trumpet interchange with I-80 in the Quad Cities, I-74 leads southward between Davenport and Bettendorf to cross the Mississippi River into Moline, Illinois. Turning east along side Interstate 280 at Quad City International Airport (MLI), I-74 meets Interstate 80 again at the Big X, a cloverleaf interchange near Colona. Both routes use off-ramps as mainlines there, with Interstate 74 leading south toward Galesburg.
The Big X interchange, where I-74, I-80 and I-280 and IL 110 (Chicago Kansas City Expressway) converge outside the Quad Cities. 03/11/17
Once at Galesburg, Interstate 74 turns southeast toward Peoria, where it crosses the Murray Baker Bridge over the Illinois River. Interstate 474 provides a bypass to the south while I-74 serves Downtown Peoria and East Peoria. Just east of the city is the north end of I-155 and the village of Morton. Interstate 155 provides cut off south to I-55 for Springfield and St. Louis while I-74 remains eastward to Normal and Bloomington.
Interstate 74 eastbound at Downtown Peoria. 05/24/18
A nearly six mile overlap takes Interstate 74 south along side I-55 around the Bloomington-Normal area. Interstate 39 ties into the area just east of the overlap while Business Loop I-55 lines an old alignment of Historic U.S. 66 through the cities. I-74 branches southeast to Champaign and Urbana while I-55 turns southwest to Lincoln.
I-57 and I-74 come together on the northwest side of Champaign at a cloverleaf interchange being rebuilt into a partial turbine. I-57 follows a mostly rural route north toward Kankakee and Chicago and south to Effingham and Mt. Vernon. The route connects I-74 with adjacent Interstate 72, as it leads west from Champaign to Decatur and Springfield. East from I-57, Interstate 74 runs across northern reaches of the Champaign-Urbana area and then to Danville and the Indiana state line.
U.S. 136 parallels Interstate 74 east from Danville to Crawfordsville and its eastern terminus in Indianapolis. Within the Hoosier State, I-74 sees long exit less stretches and mostly agricultural scenery outside of the Crossroads of America, the nickname of the capital city.
Within Indianapolis and Marion County, a Unigov system formed in 1970, I-74 joins Interstate 465 to travel across the city. Freeway spurs at both connections with the beltway alluded to a continuation, but any plans to take I-74 through the city were dropped early during the Interstate system development. Additionally the west spur joining I-74 with Crawfordsville Road was removed during Accelerate 465 construction between 2007 and 2012.
Beyond Interstate 465, I-74 resumes in a southeasterly heading to Shelbyville, Greensbury, where U.S. 421 leaves the corridor for Versailles, and Morris. The rural freeway reaches a hilly area at the state line where U.S. 52 overlaps into Harrison, Ohio.
The stretch of Interstate 74 through the Buckeye State is punctuated by forested hills and suburban tracts as the freeway winds eastward toward Cincinnati. A short overlap takes the route along the I-275 beltway by Miamitown and across the Great Miami River ahead of the final push into Cincinnati at Mt. Airy Forest. I-74 concludes at the mix of U.S. 27, U.S. 52, U.S. 127 and Interstate 75 by the South Cumminsville neighborhood and Mill Creek in the city.
Three extant sections of Interstate 74 also exist in North Carolina, but they do not connect directly with the existing I-74 from the Quad Cities to Cincinnati. They are from the Virginia state line along I-77 to Mt. Airy, from I-40 in Winston-Salem south to Rockingham along I-73 and from east of Laurinburg to south of Lumberton along U.S. 74. Three other segments are signed as Future Interstate 74. They are from Mt. Airy south to Winston-Salem along U.S. 52, the Rockingham bypass and the Laurinburg bypass east to Maxton, both along U.S. 74.
North Carolina’s section of Interstate 74 is part of High Priority Corridor 5: I-73/74 North-South Corridor. Its designation in North Carolina is written into law.
Starting in the Quad Cities area, Interstate 74 follows U.S. 150 southeast to Danville, then follows U.S. 136 the rest of the way into Indianapolis. Southeast of Indianapolis, Interstate 74 at first follows U.S. 421, then U.S. 52 the final distance into Cincinnati.
New Mississippi River Bridge
Illinois and Iowa collaborate on the I-74 Corridor Study in the Quad Cities area. Improvements underway include work to expand I-74 throughout the Quad Cities, interchange modifications, and a new Mississippi River bridge. Significant funds for the study were included in the SAFETEA-LU bill, signed into law in August 2005.
After years of delays, partially due to funding, construction on the new basket-handle, true-arch twin bridge for I-74 across the Mississippi River kicked off in 2017. Approach work includes the reconstruction of River Drive in Moline (completed in June 2015) and relocation of streets in Bettendorf (work started in April 2015 and ran through the end of 2016). Construction along U.S. 67 relocated the northbound route to run in tandem with southbound on Grant Street as the State Street alignment was severed by new bridge construction. Kimberly Road, the former alignment of U.S. 6, was also redesigned in 2016 to accommodate a new interchange for the span. Total cost for the project is $1.2-billion.3,4
The new Mississippi River bridge lies just east of the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge. Consisting of two four-lane spans with full shoulders, the new crossing will include a multi-use path and scenic overlook at mid-span. Preliminary construction on the project started in 2016, with work involving the bridge framework commencing in Summer 2017. Partial closures of Interstate 74 west took place in 2019 to accommodate work on the approaches for the replacement span. The new Iowa bound or westbound span was slated to open by November or December of 2019.4 Work however continued through 2020 with the goal of opening the bridge to two-way traffic by the end of the year.13 The new Iowa bound bridge finally opened to traffic on November 13, 2020. Eastbound traffic will shift onto the new span during Winter 2020 while work on the new Illinois bound bridge continues to December 2021.
Interstate 74 through southwestern Ohio was completed in 1974. The easternmost stretch is undergoing redesign as part of the I-75 Mill Creek Expressway mega project. $13.3 million in construction was completed at the Colerain Avenue and Beekman Street (U.S. 27) interchange from May to September 2012. Additional work, including building a new westbound ramp from I-75 north, started in March 2015.
New flyovers will be built on the north side of the exchange with I-75 as well and the Interstate 74 mainline will be rebuilt from Beekman Street east to the viaduct over Mill Creek and the adjacent railroad lines. Construction on the $91 million project (Mill Creek Expressway: Phase 5B) begins in Spring 2021.