The year 2021 will not go down as a productive one for North Carolina's newer and future interstates. No new highways were opened during the year, though some had been planned to, and many projects were slowed down due to the effects of COVID-19, higher costs due to inflation, or other problems. Yet some of the progress made during the year offers hope that 2022 will be a banner year for many of the state's newest interstate routes. I'll review the year by Interstate and then discuss what the next year could bring.
Year in Review
Work continued on constructing the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass, though progress slowed during the year. At the beginning of December work was still less that 50% complete, at 42.4%. The official opening date was moved back from the fall of 2023 to April 2024. Work continued on the future interchange with US 74. Here's a photo by David Gallo of what the construction zone looked like just before Christmas on US 74 West:
Here's a view of bridge construction from Business 74 East, taken from Google Maps Street View in November:
A similar story for I-74, besides work on the Rockingham Bypass with I-73, work proceeded on the construction of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, though behind schedule. Construction of the Beltway between US 311 and NC 66/University Parkway was 84.1% complete as of November 22. Work is now scheduled to be completed by September 2022, a year later than originally planned. Much of the roadway has been paved though and some overhead sign supports have even been put up, such as can be seen between NC 66 and NC 8, photo courtesy of J. Austin Carter:
The good news is that since the completion of the other Beltway project, to construct the interchange with US 52, is now planned for October 2022, there will only a few weeks that traffic will need an alternate route to get between the Beltway and US 52. That project was 68% complete at the end of November. That work included building new bridges to take US 52 traffic away from the interchange location and over railroad tracks, here is the US 52 South bridge near completion, as seen in Street View, from September, the bridge opened to traffic in November:
The other I-74 related construction project is the building of an interchange at the current intersection of US 74 and Old Boardman Road in Columbus County. Work started in July and as of December 7 the project was 1/4 (25.2%) complete. Work is currently scheduled to be finished in early 2025. The exit number will be 225, as seen in this NCDOT sign plan: