NCDOT contractors started to build the first phase of the a freeway bypass west of Rockingham, listed as STIP Project R-3421C, and Contract 202962 on March 3, 2014. I-73 and I-74 are to be routed on the completed bypass which is to be constructed during phase two. The first phase is 3.7 miles of the total project length of 10.5 miles, where current US 220 south of Ellerbe is being upgraded to interstate standards along with new frontage roads on either side to allow access to current businesses. It will include an exit (23) at Haywood Cemetery Road. The completion date is now listed as April 9, 2018, delayed a month from March 2018. As of the end of May 2017 the work was 75.0% complete (signifying the reason for the opening delay, the anticipated progress was 87.5%).1 As reported by site contributor, Bill Travers, who drove through the work area in early May 2016:
The access road on the west side was being paved and they were painting lines on some of the finished road.
The deck is being poured for the bridge that will take US 220 over the bypass. One of the bridges and connecting road is almost finished and, of course, I had to try it out! It's tied into 220 and the final layer of blacktop needs to be applied. When this takes place, they will tie the road into a road that will be cut from the new I-73-74.2
This project had already been delayed from a start date of January 2013, due to unresolved issues involving utility relocation along the current US 220 highway.3 For this part $14.4 million was allotted for Right-of-Way acquisition, which occurred in 2010 and 2011 and total costs are estimated at $59.7 million.4
Remainder of Bypass Work Back
on Track After Funding Announced
Work on the remaining part of the Bypass originally was to start in 2018, but it received low marks under the new NCDOT strategic allocation formula which made its debut in December 2014. Due to this, the project became unfunded, meaning, it was not included in the Final 2016-2025 STIP document released June 2015, and that meant that the earliest work could start is 2026.6 However, new funding for road construction announced by NC Governor McCrory in December 2015 became available finance unfunded projects, which included the plan to upgrade US 74 to the east of Rockingham (see I-74 Segment 14) to interstate standards by 2025. The funding of this project probably accelerated the proposal to complete the Bypass, since it would be the only gap in I-74 between Winston-Salem and Laurinburg. An updated February 2016 TIP document showed the project funded as two contracts, R-3421A from the US 74 Bypass near SR 1109, Zion Church Road to South of SR 1140, Old Charlotte Highway, 1.3 miles, with a construction cost of $65.5 million and R-3421B from SR 1140 to southwest of SR 1304, Harrington Road, 4.6 miles, costing $62.8 million lasting between 2022 to 2025.7 It would include two interchanges at Cartledge Creek Rd (Exit 20) and Blewitt Falls Rd (Exit 17), the US 74 interchange (Exit 15) would include a ramp to East Business 74 as well as to West US 74.5 About 1.5 miles of US 74 east of the new Bypass would also be reconstructed as part of the project (to add additional lanes). However, when the Draft 2017-2027 STIP was released in January 2017, the Rockingham Bypass work was put off to 'Post Years', meaning after 2027.8 Apparently the project received low marks in the new set of project scores, which also canceled the funding for the planned work to upgrade US 74 further east. Then in late June 2017, NCDOT announced that the project would be added to Draft STIP whose formal approval would now come in August. Right of way work would continue while actual construction would start in 2026 continuing at least through 2028, the cost going up for R-3421A to $66.5 million and R-3421B to $71.5 million.9
Changes in Plans over the
In 2002, then NCDOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett indicated that NCDOT planned to lobby the Federal Highway Administration to have the existing four-lane section of US 220 designated Business I-74 when the bypass is complete.10 However, sign plans released for the project in December 2013 (see below) indicate that the current US 220 will keep its designation when the Bypass opens and there were no indications of any Business interstate designation(s).11 In 2000 a couple Future I-73/74 corridor signs were put up along existing US 220 in this area (see below). In July 2002 a Formal Design Public Hearing was held on the campus of Richmond Community College to discuss the project.12 Several more public hearings have been held since to keep local citizens updated.
US 220 South entering Construction Area: Just after current End of I-73/I-74 (July 2016)
US 220 North at site of Future I-73 Interchange: Just South of Harrington Road (November 2016)
Photos taken in June 2017 by David Johnson:
Looking south on US 220 at start of construction zone where traffic is shifted to the future parallel frontage road lanes.
Looking south at construction of Future I-73/I-74 lanes between current US 220 Lanes/Future Frontage Roads.
Approaching the future Haywood Cemetery Road exit and completed bridge over the Future I-73/I-74 lanes.
Further down US 220 South looking at future Bypass lanes, graded, going straight and to the right of the current route and then curving away.
View of future bridge taking US 220 traffic to and from I-73/I-74 from current US 220 South.
The southern end of the work zone along US 220 heading towards Rockingham.
Photos taken in August 2016 by J. Austin Carter:
Looking from new Sandy Ridge Church Road bridge, not yet opened, over future I-73/I-74 Bypass.
Taken in the median of US 220 looking south over the future US 220 interchange area with the nearly completed bridge that will take US 220 South from I-73/I-74 in the distance.
View from Harrington Road looking north along future roadbed of I-73/I-74 Bypass south of US 220 (Harrington road is being realigned to meet US 220 further south of the interchange).
View taken along new bridge over future I-73/I-74 Bypass south of US 220.
Construction in the vicinity of Haywood Cemetery Road.
Closeup of detour sign for Haywood Cemetery Road which is closed while interchange is being constructed.
Looking north at bridge pier under construction in US 220 median for future Haywood Cemetery Rd Bridge over I-73/I-74.
Looking south on US 220 at northern end of construction zone showing completion of building the southbound frontage roads along path of future I-73/I-74 with US 220 traffic moved onto them so the upgrading of the existing lanes to interstate standards can start.
Closer view of the work underway to upgrade US 220 to Interstate Standards.
View along South US 220 earlier in 2016 showing progress in constructing the frontage roads and upgrading the existing lanes to interstate standards. Photo by Tracy Hamm, 2/26/16.
View of US 220 looking south toward Rockingham. This is 3 miles south of where the Ellerbe bypass highway will connect back with current US 220 and where they plan to upgrade the road to an interstate. There are many businesses and driveways along the route that will complicate matters. (October 2005)