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I-73/I-74 and NC New and Future Interstates, Year in Review 2023

Time again for another annual review of the last year's progress constructing North Carolina's new and future interstate routes. As before, I'll review the progress of building I-73 and I-74 in North Carolina and then discuss what happened with the state's other evolving or future interstate routes.

I-73 and I-74 in NC


This was rather a quiet year for I-73 news-wise with only work proceeding, though apparently slowly, on the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass. At the end of the year the project was, interestingly, 73% complete, a relatively small increase from the 60% reported finished at the end of 2022 (although since these are measures of total moneys spent, the small increase may have to do with inflation in the cost of construction materials). The completion date for the entire project was delayed again to September 2025. There was, however, visible progress at the southern end of the project at US 74. First, the US 74 West roadway was put in its new alignment, on a future exit ramp off of I-73/I-74, during the summer.

US 74 West traffic leaving future I-73 North/I-74 West, photo by David Gallo

Secondly, a new exit ramp was also opened westbound for Business 74, with temporary VMSs indicating Business 74 traffic should use the left lane, as seen above. The new Business 74 ramp is one of the bridges under which US 74 West traffic now travels.


US 74 West traffic heading under Business 74 ramp bridge, photo by David Gallo

Work progress could also be seen from Business 74. Besides the new ramp there was construction on the future Bypass bridges.
Business 74 West heads through future location of I-73/I-74 bridges, photo by Adam Prince

There was also ongoing work at the future Business 74 on-ramp, with movement of the current ramp to US 74 West. Traffic from US 74 East will be using a new Business 74 ramp being constructed  to access I-73 North/I-74 West.

 Widening of US 74 Business ramp as seen from US 74 East, photo by David Gallo

Construction progress could also be seen along the Bypass at the site of the future Cartledge Creek Road exit, with ramps being both graded and, at least partially paved.

Future on-ramp from Cartledge Creek Road to I-73 North/I-74 West, Google Maps Street View

Regarding the completion of I-73 in North Carolina, there were still no references to further interstate construction at either end, apparently still waiting for South Carolina and Virginia to decide on whether they want to build their portions of the interstate before NCDOT commits to any work. The new 2024-2033 State Transportation Improvement Project list had one funded project in Rockingham County, to replace the bridge and upgrade the interchange at US 311/NC 135 to presumably an interstate standard version, work is to start in 2025.


There was more news to report about I-74 during 2023. Most importantly, the Winston-Salem Beltway portion was connected, though not completely finished, to US 52 in Rural Hall. A restricted number of lanes was opened in both directions in mid-November, in time for holiday travel. The road opened without any new signage, just a number of temporary VMSs telling drivers where to exit. Permanent signage awaits the completion of the interchanges ramps. At the former end of NC 74 West, only the All Traffic Exit sign was removed.

Signage at the NC 66 exit on NC 74 West, screen grab from Tar Heel Dashcam video

Traffic westbound is temporarily routed to the future US 52 South/To NC 66 exit ramp, here passing the future ramp to I-274 West:
Temporary ramp from Beltway to US 52 North, screen grab from Tar Heel Dashcam video


Traffic on US 52 South is currently switched over to the future I-74 West/US 52 North lanes at the NC 65 interchange and Beltway traffic splits from US 52 before the NC 65 bridge:
US 52 traffic splitting from current Beltway exit using future I-74 West lanes, photo by Mark David Moore

Traffic on the Beltway continues to use the future westbound lanes until after the bridge over Grassy Creek prior to the NC 66/University Parkway exit:
NC 74 East temporarily using future westbound lanes, photo by Mark David Moore

Work was 92.5% complete in early December and the plan is to completely finish the interchange in the first half of 2024. Work also continued at the southern end of the Beltway project. Work between the current end at US 421/Salem Parkway and I-40 continues and is almost 43% complete as of December. The finishing date has been moved from March to April 2027 and now matches that of the I-40 to I-74 project, work on that is 33% complete. The most conspicuous parts so far of the I-40 interchange project are the flyover ramps. Work started in the fall to add the roadway structures to the already placed support piers.

Roadbed construction on future flyover ramp from I-40 West to I-74 East seen from current I-40 East lanes, screen grab from Tar Heel Dashcam video

Work has also started in paving the future exit ramps from I-40 and building noise walls along the ramps and along I-40 East between the future Beltway interchange and Union Cross Road.


Future on-ramp to I-74 East, Google Maps Street View

At the southern end of the project new lanes have been built for I-74 to traverse the future interchange work zone while exit ramps are being built.

New I-74 East lanes transitioning back to old alignment after site of future Beltway interchange, Google Maps Street View

I-74 related work is also continuing at the opposite end of the state. In Columbus County work was completed on the new Boardman interchange that replaced the intersection with Old Boardman Road. Though the project is still officially not complete, the ramps were opened in both directions in September.

Exit sign for newly opened Boardman exit on US 74/NC 130 West, photo by David Gallo

Meanwhile. work started in March across the Lumber River to construct a new interchange to replace the current intersections with NC 130 and NC 72. By the end of the year the work zone had been cleared and grading at the future interchange site had begun along with lane closures between NC 130 and NC 72.

Lane closure along US 74 West approaching NC 72 West intersection, photo by David Gallo

Work on this project is nearly 32% complete, interestingly the completion date was pushed back a day at the end of the year from December 12 to December 13, 2026. Further east beyond Whiteville work was continuing on US 74/76 to build an interchange at the Chauncey Town Road intersection and replace the intersection with Old Lake Road with a bridge in Lake Waccamaw. As of December work is over 49% complete, a gain of 30% from the end of 2022. Completion is still expected in January 2026. Progress can be seen in the interchange area where bridge work has started.

Landscaping for future bridge at current intersection with Chauncey Town Road on US 74/76 West, photo by David Gallo

Work at the future Old Lake Road bridge included installing a supports along the sides and in the median of the roadway.
Bridge supports at the Old Lake Road intersection, photo by David Gallo

The final 2024-2033 STIP released in June restored funding for the upgrade of US 74 to interstate standards between the Rockingham and Laurinburg Bypasses, though work is not scheduled to start until 2031 and does not include upgrades to the Laurinburg Bypass itself. The STIP however maintained the unfunded status of the project to upgrade US 74 to interstate standards between NC 41 near Lumberton and US 76 near Whiteville. It also had no project listed to upgrade US 52 between Winston-Salem and Mount Airy. It is unknown whether a Beltway construction related project to renumber the exits along US 52 to those based on I-74 mileage will take place after the US 52 interchange project is completed this year or when I-74 is signed along the Beltway when the Eastern Section is completed.

Other NC New and Future Interstates



The completion of the Greensboro Urban Loop occurred early in 2023, on January 23, the signing of I-840 along the entire northern half of the Loop however took a little longer. The road opened to great fanfare, but little signage, as most of the overhead signs had still not been placed. 


One of the many temporary VMS exit signs greeting drivers upon the opening of the Greensboro Urban Loop, photo by Strider

For many months there was not any addition of I-840 signs to the section between US 29 and I-40/85, and only one sign indicated the creation of the second 3 digit interstate concurrency in the state, and only the third nationally.

The only example of a 2 interstate shield overhead for several months at the US 29 exit, photo by Strider

It was not until the summer before the other overhead signs were put up on the new section of the Loop and I-840 signage appeared all the way along the northern half of the Loop.
First of I-785/I-840 reassurance marker signs put up in July, photo by Strider

Signs on approaching roadways, such as I-85 and I-40 were updated around the same time. 
On-ramp trailblazers for both I-785 and I-840 on Huffine Mill Road, photo by Strider

A related project, the removal of Business 85 and US 70 shields from overhead signs in the Greensboro area, also took place under the Loop construction contract. That work consisted mainly of simply removing those shields from the existing signs along I-40, I-73 and I-85. 
Bus. 85 and US 70 shields removed from overhead signs on I-40 East in Greensboro, Google Maps Street View

Work, however, to place new US 70 shields along its new route through Greensboro will apparently have to wait for later in 2024.

The other interstate, or should I say still future interstate, in the news during the year was I-42. NCDOT announced in October that the signing of I-42, at least along the Clayton Bypass, would have to wait until the issue of what to do with intersecting NC 42 was resolved. Citing potential driver confusion, NCDOT proposed renumbering 10.6 miles of NC 42 between current Business 70 in Clayton and NC 50 as NC 36, further the new NC 36 would use a new route from Business 70 to I-42 then and be routed along the interstate for 3 miles back to the current NC 42. A public hearing was held that month to gather public input in the final decision. There has been no announcement as of the end of the year as to what NCDOT's final decision is. As part of I-42 signing process, NCDOT wanted US 70 to be moved from the Bypass back to its original alignment through Clayton. AASHTO approved this at their Fall 2023 meeting. There has been no news regarding signing I-42 on the Goldsboro Bypass. No signage has appeared as of December. NCDOT is perhaps waiting until the Clayton Bypass is signed. Meanwhile, another holdup for signing I-42 is the replacement of ramps from the Clayton Bypass to I-40 as part of the Toll NC 540/Triangle Expressway project. The new ramp from the Bypass to I-40 East was to open in mid-September, however that was pushed back until the end of 2023, and was still not open as of early 2024. Work on a new ramp from the Bypass to I-40 West was completed, in the fall as well as supports for future sign gantries at the split of ramps.

Turnpike Authority style sign gantry supports at future split of ramps to NC 540 West and I-40 East, Google Maps Street View

The new turbine interchange ramp from I-40 East to Future I-42 East also opened during the summer, the rest of the interchange is set to open in the spring of 2024.

Traffic in new turbine interchange at future split for I-42 East, left and NC 540 West, right, Google Maps Street View

The I-42 related construction project in Johnston County between Business 70 and the Neuse River bridge continued, as of December 15 it was listed as 71.6% finished, though this is smaller than the 75% percent listed in October, probably due to inflated material costs. Work is still scheduled to be completed in March 2025, but earlier news reports have stated the goal is to finish by the end of 2024. Major progress is seen at the two interchange sites at Wilson's Mills and Swift Creek Roads.
Future I-42 roadway awaiting bridge over Wilson's Mills Road as seen from current US 70 West roadway, Google Maps Street View

Median support and bridge abutments being built along US 70 at Swift Creek Road, Google Maps Street View

Work has proceeded at the other end of I-42 in Craven County on 3 separate projects to upgrade US 70 to an interstate. The Clayton Bypass is now 75% complete (after being 57% complete at the end of 2022) and is still planned to open by May 2024.

Workers continuing to build the future US 70 East lanes at eastern end of Havelock Bypass, Google Maps Street View

Work also is continuing through James City to upgrade US 70, however a little more slowly. The project is 39.6% complete, only advancing from 32% at the end of 2022. The finishing date is still May 2025. Progress is substantial in some areas, such as around the future Grantham Road exit where one of the roundabouts was opened to traffic in October, but just starting elsewhere, such as around Airport Road.

Building of frontage roads underway along US 70 through James City, Google Maps Street View

The last project, a design-build contract for upgrading US 70 between Thurman Road and the Havelock Bypass started in February but is only 8.3% complete as of December. The completion date currently is set for 2028. The signing of I-42 along any of these segments, however, relies on the completion of the Kinston Bypass. That project was not funded in the 2024-2033 STIP.

There is not much to report about the other new 2 digit interstate for 2023. There was no change from the Draft to Final 2024-2033 STIP regarding the upgrade of US 64/264 between Wendell and Zebulon. The June 2023 document still listed funding for preliminary engineering work only, meaning any project would not start currently until at least 2034. There are a number of pavement rehabilitation projects ongoing or planned. The contract in Edgecombe County between Old Carriage Road and Kingsboro Road included upgrading the shoulders for about 3 miles at the eastern end to interstate standards, but not for the remaining roadway west of there.

Upgraded shoulder along US 64 West after Kingsboro Road exit, Google Maps Street View

Work started on another project to the east, from Kingsboro Road to NC 33, in the summer, but there has been no indication that shoulders will be widened as part of this contract.



Work continued on completing the I-295/Fayetteville Outer Loop during 2023, though slowly. The project between US 401 and Camden Road was reported to be 34.3% complete in December, the estimated completion date is January 2027. Meanwhile the section between Camden Road and I-95, where a short 2-mile section between Black Bridge Road and Parkton Road opened in the fall of 2022 is 82.5% complete and due to be finished by July 2025. Work has been continuing on building the future ramps between I-295 and I-95.

Graded future ramp to I-295 North from I-95 North, Google Maps Street View

The opened section meanwhile was signed as NC 295, as will the rest of this section when the connection to I-95 is completed.
North NC 295 ramp trailblazer on Parkton Road, Google Maps Street View

The project widening I-95 beyond the northern I-295 interchange to I-40 includes building a new separate ramp directly to I-295 on I-95 North. The ramp has not opened yet to my knowledge, though signs were updated indicating that there were to be two ramps.

Overhead 1 Mile advance sign for soon to be separate I-295 and US 13 exits on I-95 North (prior to updating to Fort Liberty), Google Maps Street View

There was no change in the status of the Future I-587 section of US 264 west of I-95 during 2023. While reports were published in 2022 indicating that work to upgrade the route to interstate standards so I-587 could be signed to US 64 were a couple of years away, the only projects listed in the 2024-2033 STIP are two for pavement rehabilitation to take place in 2026 and 2027. Meanwhile, efforts in putting up new I-587 signage east of I-95 continued at a slow pace. During the summer new I-587 signs started going up on I-95 in Wilson, however overhead signs at other key interchanges, such as on I-795 North and even along the I-587/I-795 section still have not been revised.

The new 1 Mile advance sign with I-587 shield on I-95 North, Google Maps Street View

Some signage at the eastern end has been updated in regards to US 264 being put back on its old alignment, but not at the eastern end of I-587 along the US 264/NC 11 Bypass heading north.

New 1 Mile advance sign with West US 264 added to US 13/Alt. 264 on Greenville Southeast Bypass, Google Maps Street View

Work continued in 2023 on the upgrade of the Reedy Fork Parkway interchange on US 29 just north of the Greensboro Loop. The project was nearly 60% complete in mid-December and is planned to be finished in the fall of 2024. Work still had not been completed though on new bridges across US 29 as of this fall.
New bridge beams for Reedy Fork Parkway over US 29 South, photo by David Gallo

The Final 2024-2033 STIP confirmed that one of the two projects to upgrade US 29 to interstate standards between Reedy Fork Parkway and NC 150 is due to start in 2031 at a cost of $186 million, the contract for the remaining 4 miles was listed only for preliminary engineering purposes with no starting date.

The Final 2024-2033 STIP released in June 2023 did not change the status of the future projects to extend I-795 from Goldsboro to I-40. Only 2 of the 5 projects are funded. Upgrading US 117 to interstate standards from Country Club Road to South Landfill Road is planned to start in 2028, while the section between South Landfill and Genoa Road is to start in 2029. The remainder, including a new bypass of Goldsboro, currently cannot start before 2034. 

Major news for this interstate was actually on the section currently signed as NC 140. The Military Cutoff Road extension project was finished adding a new exit to the northern section of the Wilmington Bypass.
Exit sign for new NC 417/Military Cutoff Road extension on NC 140 East, Google Maps Street View

The interchange will also be eventually for the southern end of the Hampstead Bypass, when the northern section, currently under construction, is completed, NC 417 will be temporarily routed along NC 140, US 17 and NC 210 to reach the opened part of the Bypass. Speculation is that NCDOT has not signed I-140 east of I-40 because they eventually want to route it up the Bypass to beyond Hampstead. Time will tell.

Work continued in 2023 on building new toll express lanes along the southern section of the Charlotte Outerbelt. Work is officially to be completed by the end of 2024 and was 82.1% complete as of the end of November.

Work continues in the median of I-485 at the US 74/Independence Blvd. interchange at the eastern end of the Toll Lane project work zone. Google Maps Street View
 

Work continued along parts of US 421 in Guilford and Randolph Counties to improve the roadway for its eventual designation as an interstate route. There has been no news though regarding a final decision as to where the southern end of the future interstate will be (either Dunn or Fayetteville) nor has any additional money been allocated for future upgrade projects. The major project underway during 2023 was at the "Guilford/Randolph Megasite" where a new interchange to serve a Toyota battery manufacturing plant is being built. The plant is due to open in 2025. During 2023 work to build the ramps and the bridge over US 421 progressed significantly. The project as of December 15 was 65% done and is set to be complete by August 2024.
                        
            One-lane US 421 South near future ramp to serve the Guilford Randolph Megasite, Google Maps Street View

Closeup of new bridge being built over US 421 as part of Guilford Randolph Megasite, Google Maps Street View

What's expected in 2024

The major highway news for the year will be for a non-interstate, the extension of Toll NC 540 to I-40 from the NC 55 Bypass is supposed to open in the spring. Work on contracts let in 2023 to complete the Outer Loop to I-87/US 64/US 264 should also start. The planned completion of the Havelock Bypass and the upgrades to US 70 in Johnston County will hopefully come with the signing of I-42 near Clayton and Goldsboro and will add new miles to the completed part of the future I-42 corridor. If the completion of the Reedy Fork interchange occurs on schedule, a couple miles will be ready for the signing of I-785 along US 29.

I would like to thank again all the contributors of news and images to my I-73/I-74 and NC Future Interstates sites; in particular: David Gallo, Tracy Hamm, Mark David Moore, Adam Prince, and Strider. The sites could not keep going without their help.

Site Links

Interstate 73/74 in NC

New and Future NC Interstates


Comments

Anonymous said…
I have been waiting since Christmas for your Year in Review. Thank You again so much for your dedication to your N.C. Highway Hobby.
Jon Kimball said…
Thanks for the update. I wonder does NC have more 3-digit interstates that any other state?

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