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I-73/I-74 and NC Future Interstates, Year in Review 2022

Another year over, already? 2022 turned out to be quite the year if you are a fan of new interstate routes, and it wasn't bad for some long standing favorites. As per the tradition, I will review what happened with I-73 and I-74, and then the other new and future interstate routes in North Carolina...




Work continued on the one segment of I-73 under construction, the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass. As of the beginning of December, work was getting close to being 2/3 complete at 60.1%. Progress could be seen from US 74 on constructing of the future interchange at the Bypass's southern end. Here's a look from US 74 East in September from Google Maps Street View:


Here's a photo from US 74 West taken last week by David Gallo:

Work is now scheduled to be completed in October 2025, though the road itself could open earlier that year. 

Progress on I-74 earned more publicity in 2022 with the opening of 7.5 more miles of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway from US 311 (Exit 49) to NC 66/University Parkway (Exit 42). The new section was opened on November 7, unfortunately 3 weeks after I had visited North Carolina to attend a college reunion. In addition to driving the already open section signed as NC 74:


I traveled around the work zone for the unopened section. Work was proceeding rapidly, here at the soon to be western end of the Beltway:


I was able to get closer views of the new roadway near the NC 8 exit:


And a closer view of the signage that was already up:


In addition I drove US 52 through the Beltway interchange construction area. This was supposed to be completed around the same time as the other segment, now it looks like it will not be open until next summer. At the end of November it was 80% complete. Here's a look at the future split between I-74 East and US 52 (Future I-285) South:


Hopefully, NCDOT can at least open a temporary link between NC 66 and US 52 prior to opening the interchange to reduce problems with traffic trying to get between the two routes.

In addition to the new segment of Beltway opening, the remaining sections of the Eastern (I-74) portion started construction in 2022. Despite the section from US 421 to I-40 starting work in April and the section south of I-40 to current I-74 on December 1, both projects are to be completed at the same time, currently in March 2027. Progress can be seen along I-40 in construction of the future interchange through Google Street View from September:


Plans posted by NCDOT in the advertising of the final Beltway contract had some interesting news. First, they plan to post new I-74 milepost exit numbers along the US 52 segment between Mt. Airy and Rural Hall, for instance for the Pilot Mountain exit, which will become Exit 21:


Further more, NCDOT plans to renumber the exit along the I-74/I-77 concurrency to 5 based on I-74 mileage, so that I-74 will exit off of itself:


Unknown whether the renumbering will take place next year, after the US 52 interchange is opened, or at the end of the I-74 Beltway construction. 

At the other end of the Future I-74 corridor, work is proceeding on two 'piecemeal' contracts upgrading intersections along US 74 to interchanges. Work on upgrading the Columbus County intersection in Boardman is proceeding along, it was almost 60% complete at the beginning of December, though the completion date is set for March 2025. Here's a photo of construction progress taken by Tracy Hamm along US 74 East in October:


The other project east of Whiteville on US 74/76 is upgrading two intersections at Lake Road and Chauncey Town Road into bridge and a Lake Waccamaw exit. Work started in August and as of December 15 was 19% complete. This project is to be completed in January 2026. A project to replace the intersections of US 74 with NC 72 and NC 130 West was to be let earlier this month, but was postponed until February 2023 with advertisement to be posted on January 17. Once this project is completed, there will only be a 2 mile section of US 74 between Boardman and the new NC 130/72 exit not up to freeway standards between Lumberton and Whiteville. Unfortunately, the new Draft 2024-2033 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) did not fund an upgrade of this section to interstate standards, meaning at present this cannot be signed as I-74 until after 2033. There was some good news with the Draft STIP, the revised August version added funding for a project to upgrade US 74 to Interstate standards from the Rockingham to the Laurinburg Bypass starting in 2030. Perhaps the final STIP due out next summer will have good news about other I-73 and I-74 projects.

New and Future

2022 was a banner year for new interstates in North Carolina, with 2 new ones signed, plus a new Future Interstate. Here are the highlights:

The first new interstate signed, starting on June 22. New mile markers along US 264 started going up earlier that month. In addition to Greenville getting an interstate connection, the country got its second 3-digit-interstate concurrency in Wilson:

Work on upgrading the signage for the entire route from I-95 to Greenville, however has still not been completed, as this traffic camera in Greenville indicated on December 31:


Work though updating the exit numbers was (mostly) completed by early fall, here's the new numbers for the US 301 (though letters are backwards) and I-795 exits headed east:


Exit numbers were also changed along the US 264 section of Future I-587 west of  I-95 even though construction to upgrade that part of the route is a few years away. Here's the new I-587 milepost based number for the Alt. US 264 exit in Zebulon:


Hopefully, all the signage will be updated during 2023.

Durham's new Interstate was signed on June 30 when the East End Connector, after more than 7 years of construction, finally opened. Fortunately for NCDOT, AASHTO approved the route at its May 2022 Spring meeting, since much of the signage was already up. The East End Connector allows for an easier commute from south of Durham to points north and for RDU Airport commuters heading south. Here's the start of the Connector beyond the US 70 exit:


Yes, the Connector is all of 1/2 Mile long, but it was a complicated project. Heading north I-885 heads off toward US 70 from the Durham Freeway:


The decision to truncate NC 147 to the East End Connector exit meant NCDOT had to renumber the Toll portion of NC 147 south of I-40 to NC 885, meaning exit signs even along NC 540 had to be changed:

Signage was updated fairly quickly after the route opened, however there were some problem signs that could use correction, such as this NC 885 pull through headed south at the I-40 exit:


Sorry for the glare, hopefully this and any other problem signs will be fixed in 2023.

This new future interstate corridor, whose southern end is still up for debate, was approved under the 2021 Transportation Law, and the number was officially approved by AASHTO at their May 2022 meeting. The interstate was conceived by business interests in Guilford and Randolph Counties who sought investment in industrial 'mega-sites' planned along the US 421 corridor, including the Greensboro/Randolph site that has been chosen by Toyota for a new automobile parts facility. The first project to upgrade US 421 in the vicinity of this site, to help bring it up to Interstate standards, is underway in Randolph County and is 62.1% complete as of December 15. Currently there is no timetable for completing all the projects needed to allow for the signing of I-685. Whether the southern end should be at I-95 in Dunn paralleling US 421 or in Fayetteville following NC 87 has still to be determined. Here's a map of the chosen and possible US 421 corridor:


After  a rather slow 2021, work again picked up on completing the final section of the Greensboro Urban Loop in 2022. As of mid-December work was 88% complete, with an opening in the spring most likely. I got a chance to view some of the construction during my NC trip in October. Here's what the eastern end of the construction area looked like at US 29/I-785:


The concrete road bed extended several miles to the west beyond Lees Chapel Road, where I check out the new bridge:


And continued beyond the future exit at Yanceyville Street, here looking east from the new bridge:


When the Loop is completed, I-840 shields will be extended east to cover the entire northern part of the Loop, and, as part of the construction contract, US 70 shields will be removed from its routing along US 29 and I-40 north of the NC 68 exit and put up along its new path through Greensboro.

The 2 major developments for the Fayetteville Outer Loop project during 2022 were the letting of the final contract for the Loop, to build the portion south of US 401 to Camden Road. Work started in August and as of the end of November was 10.1% complete. The quick process to double digit percentage belies the fact that the project is not expected to be complete until 2027. The second surprised many, in that a small 2 mile section of the Loop under construction between Camden Road and I-95, from Parkton Road to Black Bridge Road (at the Cumberland/Robeson County border where it becomes Leeper Road) was opened on November 21 and signed as NC 295. Here's a view looking over the new roadway from Parkton Road before it opened, courtesy of LC:


The two interchanges contain roundabouts, which are an ever increasing popular part of NCDOT road building, here's the one at the Black Bridge Road interchange, again courtesy of LC:


The opening of the remainder of this section to I-95, largely complete, has been delayed by the I-95 widening project going on in the area, the connection between the two roadways apparently has to wait until the I-95 work is completed, perhaps not until 2024.

The major news for this mostly future interstate in 2022 was that the upgrades needed for it to be signed north of the Greensboro Loop were finally funded in the Draft 2024-2033 STIP. Currently right of way purchasing is to start in 2028 with construction, at a total estimated cost of $186.2 million, not to start until 2031. Meanwhile, a small project to upgrade the interchange at Reedy Fork Parkway has been underway since 2021. Upon completion in 2024, the interstate quality portion of US 29 will be extended 2 miles further north of Hicone Road, reducing the number of additional miles miles needed to be upgraded in the future. Here's a photo of the construction seen in October:


I also was able to capture a lone I-785 shield before it is joined by an I-840 one in 2023, creating the second 3 digit interstate concurrency in NC:


With I-785 construction funded, if not imminent, I have finally created a separate page for I-785 on my New and Future NC Interstates site






In March NCDOT announced that the FHWA had approved the state's request to sign I-42 on both the US 70 Goldsboro and Clayton Bypasses. The press release indicated that at least a timetable for the signing of both highways would happen by the end of the year. The year has ended but no word yet from NCDOT. Hopefully, at least the Goldsboro Bypass will be signed during 2023. The Clayton Bypass may be more complicated in that NCDOT may decide not to sign it before the upgrade of US 70 in Johnston County is completed. I was able to drive through the construction zone in October. Here is what the area west of the future interchange at Hope Mills Road looks like:


More work had been completed further east, including the completion of some of the Future I-42 East lanes and guardrail:


Work as of mid-December was nearly 1/2 complete at 47.3% with a completion date set for March 2025. If signage gives a clue as to NCDOT's plans, new overhead signage put up for the Clayton Bypass as part of the I-40 widening project in the area only provide space for a US 70 shield indicating there is no imminent plans to sign I-42 (unless they plan to move US 70 back to its old alignment and simply cover the US 70 shield with an I-42 one, but there's been word about that happening). Work on the other end of the corridor east of New Bern is proceeding, the Havelock Bypass is now 57% complete, with a completion date still of May 2024. Here's a Google Maps Street View image along US 70 from July showing where the Bypass will tie back into the current route:


Work has also started on the upgrade of US 70 through James City. Work on that project is 32% complete, but the completion date has been moved back to December 2024. Work was to start on a design-build project to upgrade US 70 between the James City contract and the Havelock Bypass this summer, but the letting of that project has now been delayed until this January 17. The ability to sign I-42 beyond the Goldsboro Bypass is contingent on the completion of the Kinston Bypass. A date for this project is cannot be determined until the environmental impact statement is completed some time in 2023.






2022 saw no further progress in the signing of I-87, nor does it appear likely in 2023. The 2024-2033 Draft STIP released in March kept the project to widen and upgrade US 64/264 between the Knightdale Bypass and Zebulon to Interstate standards unfunded, with only moneys for preliminary engineering. While there are several pavement rehabilitation projects scheduled in the Rocky Mount area for 2023 that may bring parts of the roadway closer to interstate quality, they are not designed to bring the road up to interstate standards. New signing put up as part of the I-40 Raleigh to NC 42 widening project did bring updated signs with I-87 shields along I-40 West approaching the  Raleigh Beltline to match those on I-40 East. So, at least the small segment of I-87 that does exist is well signed, images taken in September by Google Maps Street View:


Perhaps the Final 2024-2033 STIP released this summer will be kinder to funding I-87 related projects.






A similar story for I-795. No increased funding or project acceleration for I-795 extension related contracts in the Draft 2024-2033 STIP. Only 2 of the 4 remaining extension contracts are funded, R-3125C  and D (work between Country Club Road and Genoa Road), and work is not planned to start on them until 2028 and 2029 respectively. The other two for work north of Genoa Road to the current end of I-795 are unfunded, which currently means no work until at least 2034. There was a rumor on AARoads Forum in October that the exit numbers for I-795 north of Goldsboro had been changed to reflect the extension's future mileage, but no one has confirmed this and Street View images from the fall show the same exit numbers and mileposts. 

I would like to thank all those who contributed to photos and information on both my I-73/I-74 and NC New and Future Interstate sites, they include Rich Elkins, David Gallo, Tracy Hamm, David Johnson, Charles M. Kunz, LC, Val Melvin, Mark David Moore, Adam Prince and Nick Zachetti (and I guess I should thank Google Maps for keeping (some) of their Street View images up to date, and NCDOT for all those new interstate projects). Thanks to all who have visited my pages, and if you haven't recently, over the past year I have added many video links to the I-73 and I-74 Segment pages from RoadwayWiz and Tarheel Travelsin addition to photos from my October road trip. I will hopefully adding some year in review videos for the Greensboro Loop and Beltway projects, and maybe others, soon. 

For those who would like to see more information and photos, here are the links to the sites:

Good luck to everyone in 2023.


Comments

Anonymous said…
Bob,
Thanks for another wonderful year in review. As an AAR and NCDOT Project Fan, I appreciate your work and site. I have been looking since Christmas for your year in Review.

I would only add that the Bing Maps 73/74 Rockingham Bypass gives you a much more up to date View than Google Maps.

Same for New 295 in Fayetteville and Shelbyville Bypass on Future 226. I always call it the same as you.

Again. Great Work.

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