Interstate 77 connects the eastern Great Lakes region with Appalachia and the Southeast. The freeway begins at Cayce on the south side of Columbia, following the Southeastern Beltway to Fort Jackson and I-20 near Forest Acres. The remainder of the route in South Carolina leads north to Rock Hill and the Charlotte metropolitan area.
Within the Tar Heel State, I-77 travels directly through the Queen City of Charlotte, serving Downtown in conjunction with Interstate 277, the John Belk and Brookshire Freeways. Leading north from Uptown Charlotte to Huntersville and Mooresville, I-77 constitutes a heavily traveled commuter route with Express Toll Lanes accompanying the route. The freeway remains well traveled to Statesville and the cross roads with Interstate 40.
I-77 north from Statesville to Fort Chiswell, Virginia is a rural but busy truck route. The stretch is punctuated by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which offers both scenery and potentially travel foggy conditions through Carroll County. A nearly nine mile overlap takes I-77 east-west along Interstate 81 to Wytheville. Coinciding with U.S. 11 and 52, cardinal directions along I-77/81 run opposite one another in what is sometimes referred to as a wrong-way concurrency.
Resuming a northward heading from Wytheville, Interstate 77 traverses a series of mountains to Bluefield, West Virginia. Tunnels take the route below Big Walker Mountain and East Mountain. Within the Mountaineer State, I-77 transitions into a toll road at U.S. 460 outside Princeton. The West Virginia Turnpike takes the route north to Beckley, where it combines with I-64 en route to Charleston.
Running along the Kanawha River into the capital city, I-64 and I-77 separate outside Downtown, with I-77 turning northeast briefly to Interstate 79. I-79 joins Charleston with Morgantown and Pittsburgh while I-77 remains along the former U.S. 21 corridor north to Parkersburg and Marietta, Ohio.
Advancing north through the Buckeye State, Interstate 77 stays rural to Cambridge, where it crosses paths with I-70. The route becomes increasingly busy from New Philadelphia into Canton, where U.S. 62 overlaps from separate east and west freeways. Suburban type development continues along the I-77 corridor from there north to Akron.
Interstate 77 forms an L-shaped route through Akron between I-277/U.S. 224 and a three mile overlap with I-76 south of Downtown. The freeway stays westerly to Ohio State Route 21 (former U.S. 21) near Fairlawn, where it makes the final turn toward the Cleveland area. I-77 and SR 21 parallel one another north to Independence and the Willow Freeway leading into the Forest City. The route concludes at Interstate 90 just south of Downtown.
Within Iredell and Mecklenburg Counties north of Charlotte, the I-77 Express Lanes project rebuilt 26 miles of freeway, between Exit 11 (I-277) and Exit 36 (N.C. 150), with one or two High Occupancy Toll (HO/T) lanes. The lanes run in tandem with the free general purpose lanes, but incorporate a variable toll rate on single occupant vehicles or HOV-2 motorists. HOV-3 eligible vehicles are permitted to use the roadway free of charge. Estimated to cost $647 million and highly contested by area residents, the public-private partnership based project was expected to take three years to complete.5 Weather, construction delays and design changes pushed work beyond the end of 2018.6
Work on the I-77 Express Lanes was announced by the I-77 Mobility Partners LLC for November 16, 2015. Construction took place in the median of Interstate 77, starting in area south of Exit 23 and north of Exit 28, with occasional lane shifts and closures take place during overnight hours.5 The first section of the I-77 Express Lanes opened to traffic on June 1, 2019. The 15 mile segment runs between Hambright Road (SR 2117), north of I-485 in Huntersville, and N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Mooresville. The remaining 11 miles south to Interstate 277 (Exit 11) in Charlotte remain under construction to Fall 2019.
Parallel U.S. Routes
Largely following the original route of U.S. 21, Interstate 77 parallels or overlaps with U.S. 21 from Columbia, South Carolina to Wytheville, Virginia. Northward through West Virginia to Cleveland, Ohio, I-77 replaced U.S. 21, which was truncated in stages between 1974 and 1979.
The two-lane West Virginia Turnpike opened to traffic on November 8, 1954; it was later incorporated as parts of both I-64 and I-77. The project to upgrade the turnpike from two to four lanes was completed and opened to traffic on September 2, 1987.1
The 4,200 foot long Big Walker Mountain Tunnel in western Virginia took five years to build. Costing $30 million, the first mountain tunnel constructed in the state opened in 1972.2
Interstate 77 ended at Charlotte, North Carolina from the north until June 23, 1969, when AASHTO approved the southward extension to Columbia, South Carolina.
Completion of I-77 southward to I-26 was formally recognized by AASHTO on April 22, 1995. This extension brought Interstate 77 south from its previous end at I-20 to I-26. Interstate 326, which was briefly designated on the freeway section between I-26 and S.C. 48 southeast of Columbia, was subsumed by the extended I-77. The gap between I-20 and S.C. 48 was closed prior to the renumbering. The Temporary routing of I-77, signed on I-20 and I-26 around Columbia, was also eliminated in 1995.
$36.3 million in construction at Exit 82 in Rock Hill, South Carolina improved the interchanges at Cherry Road (U.S. 21 Business) and Celenese Road. A collector distributor roadway was added to link the I-77 ramps with the respective arterial roads. Work also included widening the I-77 bridge over the Catawba River. This project was complete by September 2004.3
North End – Cleveland, OH
South End – Cayce, SC
Branch Routes – 2
Total Mileage – 610.10
South Carolina – 91.05
Cities – Columbia, Rock Hill
- Junctions –
North Carolina – 105.50
Cities – Charlotte, Mooresville, Statesville
Virginia – 69.40*
Cities – Wytheville, Bluefield
- Junctions –
West Virginia – 187.21
Cities – Bluefield, Princeton, Beckley, Charleston, Parkersburg
- Junctions –
Ohio – 160.13
Cities – Marietta, Dover, Canton, Akron, Cleveland
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* – 8.80 miles on I-81
I-77 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
|Rock Hill, SC||89,300|
|Fort Mill, SC||130,400|
Source: 2018 AADT – SCDOT Traffic Counts 2009-2018
Interstate 77 was constructed initially from Wytheville north to Princeton, West Virginia. This stretch includes the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel, which opened in 1972, and the East River Mountain Tunnel at the state line, which was completed in 1974.
Interstate 77 shares a 3.1-mile overlap with Interstate 76 through the city of Akron, Ohio. The portion of I-77 northwest from Ohio 162 to Ohio 18 was the last to be completed in the state. It opened fully in 1974.7
Early 1960s maps for Ohio showed Interstates 71 and 77 overlapped along the Innerbelt Freeway north to the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway. The Shoreway was proposed as the mainline for I-90 west from there to the unconstructed Parma Freeway. The Parma Freeway was to run south from the Shoreway to the Northwest Freeway (I-90 today) and York Road at North Royalton.
As part of the Innerbelt Project in Cleveland with I-71 and I-90, changes were made at the north end of Interstate 77. The southbound on-ramps from 9th and Ontario Streets were removed and loop ramps along I-90 east replaced with a single ramp to E 9th Street north. This movement to the southbound beginning of Interstate 77 was replaced by an upgraded boulevard along Orange Avenue (U.S. 422 & SR 14) to 30th Street.
Prior work of the Innerbelt Project eliminated the seldom used eastbound ramp from I-90 to I-77 south and the northbound ramp from I-77 north to I-90 west. Both ramps involved sharp curves with conflict points. They closed permanently on April 10 and 11, 2011, with Interstate 490 prominently signed to accommodate the former movements.4
North End – Cleveland, Ohio
Progressive Field (home of the MLB Cleveland Indians) comes into view as Exit 162B departs for E 14th Street north to U.S. 20 (Euclid Avenue). Interstate 90 encircles Downtown along the Innerbelt Freeway. Construction finished in October 2016 replaced the 1959-viaduct across the Cuyahoga River leading south from I-77. Photo taken 09/30/10.
North End Throwback
The eastbound ramp from Interstate 90 to I-77 south closed permanently by April 11, 2011. The 1959 truss bridge carrying I-90 across the Cuyahoga River was fully demolished on July 12, 2014. Construction on the replacement commenced afterwards. The $273-million project wrapped up in Octotober 2016.
A sharp ramp (Exit 172A) parted ways with I-90 east for both E 9th Street north to Jacobs Field and Interstate 77 (Willow Freeway) south. Innerbelt Project work reconfigured this exit to improve the ramp geometry for 9th Street while eliminating the prong for I-77. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (06/18/06).
South End – Cayce, South Carolina
Four lanes of I-77 south pass over an area of wetlands on the one mile approach to Interstate 26. Trailblazers affixed to the overheads reference the connections with I-20 (Malfunction Junction), eight miles to the north, and I-95 for Georgia and Florida-bound motorists from the Great Lakes region. Photo taken 05/26/19.
Back to back ramps leave I-26 west for I-77 north to Fort Jackson and Charlotte and U.S. 21-176-321 north into Cayce. The initial five mile stretch of I-77 east opened as S.C. 48 in August 1986. This segment was previously designated as Interstate 326, but never signed in the field. Photo taken by Carter Buchanan (04/10/16).
South End Throwback
- Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
- “HIGHWAY SYSTEM’S IMPACT VAST.” Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA), October 7, 1991.
- “Officials: Interstate construction at halfway point.” The Herald, South Carolina, October 5, 2003.
- “Two Interstate 77/90 Ramps to Close Permanently as Part of Innerbelt Work.” Ohio Department of Transportation, April 5, 2011.
- “Construction on I-77 toll lanes to begin Monday.” WCNC (Charlotte, NC), November 12, 2015.
- “Northern Section Of I-77 Toll Lane Project Opens Saturday.” WFAE (Charlotte, NC), May 31, 2019.
- Route 77 – The Unofficial Ohio State Highways Web Site (John Simpson).
Page updated August 13, 2019.