Skip to main content

I-73/I-74 in NC: Year in Review 2014

Here's another end-of-the-year summary of the progress made in completing I-73 and I-74 in North Carolina. While 2014 did not see the amount of projects completed as was the case in 2013, there was a significant milestone for I-74 and the start of additional projects for both routes which shall add to their total mileage in the years ahead.

A. I-73
It was hard to top the increase in mileage the completion of signage projects in 2013 did for I-73. The route went from being signed as an interstate for 46 miles at the end of 2012 to 77 miles at the end of 2013, an increase of 40%. The route was now officially signed from I-40 in Greensboro to south of Ellerbe. Here's the Begin signage in the background of a photo of the new signage for the US 220 interchange, Exit 25, courtesy of Mark Clifton:


And here's a closer view of the Begin signage itself:

On the other side there is the End signage, photo courtesy of Chris Curley:

There were no projects completed for I-73 in 2014. There were, though, two new projects started at both ends of the current route. At the southern end, at the end of February, work started on the first project of 3 projects to build an I-73/I-74 bypass of Rockingham. The first phase is the $49.8 million upgrading of current US 220 from Exit 25 in Ellerbe 3.7 miles south to where the new Bypass will be built. As of the end of November, the project was about 20% complete, with an estimated completion date of October 2017. The next two projects were to start in 2019, however, under the new NCDOT process of determining which construction projects are to be financed over the next 10 years, starting in July 2015, the remainder of the Bypass did not receive high enough scores to be included. Therefore, at the current time, it does not appear construction to complete the Bypass will start until at least 2026.

At the northern end, work started in May on the $176.6 million project to extend I-73 from the PTI Airport interchange on Bryan Blvd. west to NC 68 then north 9.4 miles to US 220 near the Haw River. This is a design-build contract awarded to a joint venture of Flat Iron Contractors and Blythe Development Co., partially on the assurance the work could be completed by April 2017. As of the end of November, this project is about 15% complete. The northern end will tie into US 220 currently being upgraded to interstate standards north for about 4 miles from the Haw River to NC 68. This project has been ongoing since May 2012, and has fallen significantly behind, partly due to the decision by NCDOT to revise its plans for the northern interchange with NC 68 from one with traffic signals to one with a flyover ramp for I-73 South traffic. Despite it being, as of December 15, only 43% complete (vs. a projected 68%), the estimated completion date for the project is still listed as December 2016. Though I do not have any photos of these projects, you can view what the US 220 construction looked like back in April by accessing Google's Street View images starting at the construction of the future US 220/I-73 interchange. According to AARoads Forum member Strider, as of last week, drivers were now using the newly completed US 220 South flyover to cross over the future I-73 roadbed still under construction. He said most of the progress was at the southern end of the project.

B. I-74
Unlike I-73, I-74 saw the completion of a project in 2014 that extended it westward about 10 miles into Forsyth County, though this turned out to be the result of mistake communication. During the summer, new I-74 signs were put up along US 311 between High Point (Exit 65) and I-40 reflecting the approval of the route by the FHWA in the fall of 2013. Plus new overhead signs touting the new I-74/US 311 designation were put up along I-40, plus, temporarily before the overheads went up, a lone East I-74 trailblazer at the US 311 exit eastbound in June, photo courtesy of J. Austin Carter:
The signage upgrade was largely completed by August. A month later, the Winston-Salem news media reported the signing of I-74 was a mistake caused by a mix up between NCDOT and the FHWA over language in the correspondence between the two agencies as to whether the US 311 freeway was up to interstate standards. Even though US 311 was substandard and shouldn't have been allowed to be signed as I-74, the FHWA admitted it made the mistake, and so the I-74 signage could remain, though NCDOT had to promise to upgrade the freeway to interstate standards in the future.

The other major news surrounding I-74 in 2014 was the start of construction on the long planned, and long delayed, Winston-Salem Northern Beltway. Not only did construction start on the first segment, 4 miles from Business 40/US 421/NC 150 to US 158, in December, with a total cost of $154 million, to be completed in April 2019, but NCDOT approved moneys from three other segments that will extend I-74 from the US 311 freeway across I-40 and northwest to US 311 /Walkertown Road by 2025. Here's some of the planned signage for the Beltway on Business 40:
As can be seen, NCDOT will sign the Loop as NC 74 until the Loop at least ties into the existing I-74/US 311 freeway. Here's some signage plans for the Loop itself:
Again, future signage on top is for when the Loop is completed back to I-74/US 311. As for the remaining segments needed to take I-74 to US 52, these are not funded at this time, and so construction cannot start until after 2025. The other I-74 project under construction is the Rockingham Bypass discussed earlier.

C. What's Ahead for 2015
Next year will be the first in several years which will see no I-73 or I-74 project starts or completions. The Draft STIP with the projects funded and not funded discussed above is due out in final form in July. There, perhaps, may be changes in the fortunes of some of the unfunded projects. NCDOT has a feasibility study underway on whether to upgrade US 74 between the current end of I-74 at NC 41 near Lumberton to the US 74-76 Bypass Freeway around Whiteville. Also, they are studying, at the behest of officials in Charlotte and cities further western along the US 74 corridor, the feasibility of upgrading all of US 74 east of I-26 to Wilmington to interstate standards. If either of these projects get a green light, there may be more resources available to complete some of the I-73 and I-74 projects in the southeastern part of the state in the years ahead.

I will post any news and updates to my I-73/I-74 in NC Progress page, and, perhaps, I will be able to take a trip down to North Carolina to check things out in person. As always, feel free to forward any photos or news you may hear to me, it's greatly appreciated.

Comments

Chris Miller said…
thanks for the update!
kdub1 said…
I've thought that for the longest time that NCDOT should have placed "Temporary 74" shields on the stretch of 311/40/52 between each end of the Northern Beltway like it did with 85 until the Interstate could be built between Exits 87 & 118.

Popular posts from this blog

The Relief Route That Wasn't: The Never Built I-70 Bypass in the Mid-Mon Valley

In June 1963, a small blurb in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read that The Westmoreland Engineering Company was awarded a $24,060 bid to study the proposed construction of Interstate 70 in Westmoreland and Washington Counties.  The study was to see what the construction and right-of-way costs "...to modernize the existing highway to Interstate requirements within eight months." (1)  This small, non-attributed, three paragraph article came less than a decade after the completion of a four lane highway that linked the Mid-Mon Valley to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This would be the start of a 15 year process to upgrade and improve Interstate 70 - a process that ultimately never produced a single foot of new highway.

This is the story, albeit brief, of the I-70 that never came about.

Background:
What is now known as Interstate70 from Washington to New Stanton began as a connecting highway for the region to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Known as the "Express Highway", construct…

A look at Pittsburgh's Saw Mill Run Boulevard

Saw Mill Run Boulevard - Pennsylvania State Route 51 - runs through the narrow Saw Mill Run Valley.  It begins at the intersection of Clairton Road and Provost Road at the City of Pittsburgh Line with Brentwood.  It ends at the West End Circle at the entrance to the West End Bridge.  A four lane highway for its the entire length, Saw Mill Run Boulevard consists of interchanges at the South Portal of the Liberty Tubes and with the Parkway West.  It is an expressway from the Parkway to the West End Circle (West End Bypass).  One of the most well known traffic tie-ups in the Pittsburgh area occurs between Maytide Street and PA 88 (Library Road) which is simply known as 'Maytide and 88.'

History:
Saw Mill Run Boulevard was part of the 1928 Allegheny County 'City Beautiful' bond issue.  The bonds resulted in the creation of Saw Mill Run, Ohio River, Allegheny River and Mosside Boulevards. (1)   After the completion of the Liberty Tunnels in 1924, Downtown Pittsburgh was offic…

The Many Failed Plans of Pittsburgh's Wabash Bridge and Tunnel

The December 27, 2004 opening of the Wabash Tunnel ended over 70 years of proposals and speculation for the use of the over 100 year old facility.  The tunnel, which is now a reversible roadway that is an alternative route for rush hour traffic, saw many failed plans during the 20th Century.  These plans included options for mass transit, converted and new bridges for vehicles, and other forms of transportation.

Brief History:
Constructed in 1902-04, the Wabash Bridge and Tunnel was planned and financed by rail mogul, Jay Gould.  Gould began his "Battle of the Wabash" with the established railroads of the city in 1890.  He would finally emerge victorious, but during that struggle, Gould would see many setbacks that would eventually result in the railroad's bankruptcy in 1908.  On October 19, 1903, when the two ends of the bridge were to be joined together over the Monongahela River, the 109' bridge collapsed; killing ten men.  Construction would resume four days later …