I-73 travels on the 'I-73 Connector' from the 'NC 68-US 220 Connector' over another new alignment paralleling NC 68 south for a mile before traveling across that route and heading east for 3 miles to reach the I-840/Greensboro Urban Loop. This route replaced the original path of I-73 which was to follow an upgraded NC 68 to I-40 (see Segment History section below). The segment was constructed in two parts. Pre-existing Bryan Blvd. from the Loop to the PTI Airport exit was reconstructed to an interstate standard freeway between 2006 and 2009 (which included removing an exit to Inman Road just west of the Loop with a new bridge to constructed for that roadway later). The remaining section was to be built in 2016 once the modification of PTI Airport to serve as a FedEx Hub was completed. However, it was announced in late May 2013 that the timetable for construction of the I-73 Connector had been moved up to the Spring 2014, pending the completion of an environmental assessment by URS Corp. The I-73 construction project (Tip No. I-5110) would include building an additional taxiway for PTI Airport and developers of land adjacent to the airport, that could only be reached by the new taxiway, urged the timing of the project to be sped up so not to lose out on proposals by major manufacturing companies to build there. The NCDOT spokesman at the time indicated if the project started on schedule, it could be completed during 2015.12 In September 2013 NCDOT posted the letting list for its Design-Build Projects over the next year. The I-73 Connector project was now combined with the project to build the 'NC 68-US 220 Connector', TIP Project R-2413, Parts A and B, and the combined design-build contract was let in April 2014 and work started in early May. The project was awarded to a joint venture of Flatiron Constructors and Blythe Development Co. for $176.6 million. The completion date for the entire project (from PTI Airport to US 220) was listed as October 2017.13 However, in January 2016, NCDOT officials indicated that the later date was for the taxiway not I-73, and that they planned to open the entire stretch of I-73 from the Airport to US 220 (see Segment 3) by the end of 2016.14 However, work and weather delays moved the final completion date for the I-73 Connector to July 2, 2017.15 A separate project to complete final upgrades to the Bryan Blvd/Greensboro Loop interchange was announced on July 9, 2015 (work that was originally part of the I-73 Connector project contract, but separated out before that was awarded). The project, awarded to Flatiron/Blythe for $5 million, began on September 8, 2015 and was competed in October 2016, with the exception of remaining work needed on the southbound ramp to I-840 along with planting, reforestation and permanent vegetation with the ramp work supposed to be completed as of late November 2016. In May 2016 the new Inman Road bridge was completed, and was opened to traffic in June 2016.16
Photos taken by Strider and LC between July 1 and 3, 2017 just prior to and just after opening of I-73 roadway:
View taken day before opening of I-73 from completed ramp from NC 68 North to I-73 South.
Further up the NC 68 North on-ramp showing signage for the PTI Airport exit on the unopened I-73 South lanes.
New overhead sign on NC 68 North at former Bryan Blvd PTI Airport exit now indicating airport traffic should use just opened section of I-73.
Approaching newly opened ramp to I-73 South from NC 68 North.
The first exit sign after on-ramp from NC 68 North is the 1/2 mile advance for PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road on the other side of the Taxiway Bridge.
Now about to travel under PTI Airport Taxiway Bridge on newly opened section of I-73 South.
Approaching the PTI Airport exit, and the first overhead signs for the approaching Greensboro Loop exit (the US 220 signs, according to sign plans, are supposed to be covered over until the I-840 section to the north is complete).
Thin gore sign at exit ramp to PTI Aiport/Old Oak Ridge Road on I-73 South.
From I-73 South, overhead signage directing traffic on the new PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road exit.
Now turning around and driving on I-73 North, view of overhead signs prior to the PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road exit and lane drop after Greensboro Loop on-ramp merge.
View starting the new section of I-73 North prior to the merge, on other side of barrier, of on-ramp from Old Oak Ridge Road and PTI Airport.
Heading onto new section of I-73 North toward PTI Airport Taxiway Bridge.
Now about to go under Taxiway bridge again approaching NC 68 South exit.
View traveling under the PTI Airport Taxiway Bridge on I-73 North.
Looking back along I-73 North toward the Airport Taxiway Bridge prior to the NC 68 exit.
View on other side of Taxiway Bridge showing VMS sign in median and marked lanes from NC 68 South exit.
Overhead exit signs for both NC 68 exits on I-73 North. The NC 68 South exits has two lanes, I-73 turns north prior to the second exit.
Further down I-73 North approaching the bridge carrying NC 68 South traffic over I-73.
I-73 North beginning its turn to parallel NC 68 after crossing over bridges before NC 68 North exit.
Portable VMS being used as temporary 1/2 Mile Advance sign for NC 68 North exit at Mile Marker 111.
Looking over I-73 North bridge toward NC 68 roadway and interchange below approaching exit ramp.
Exit sign for NC 68 North Oak Ridge exit approaching end of newly completed segment of I-73
View from bottom of exit ramp from I-73 North to NC 68 North, traffic can also take a left onto NC 68 South.
Overhead signage on NC 68 South for I-73 North and South ramps, both to the left.
Heading back on I-73 South crossing NC 68 again and approaching NC 68 South exit.
Further south on new section of I-73 South approaching the NC 68 South exit and first sign for the PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road exit.
Overhead signage for NC 68 South and PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road at Exit 110 off-ramp.
The routing of this segment has changed since plans for I-73 were first proposed. Initially it was assumed I-73 was to be routed onto NC 68 south from the end of the NC 68-US 220 connector to I-40. Though NC 68 is a divided highway for this entire length, it is not actually a freeway for 1/3 of a mile between the I-40 interchange and the Triad Center Drive intersection (which has a stoplight). The freeway portion north of there is also not up to Interstate standards with narrow shoulders and insufficient ramp acceleration and deceleration lanes. The current interchange between NC 68 and I-40 would also have had to be vastly upgraded, something not done when I-40 was widened a few years ago.
In May 2003, the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization announced major highway planning initiatives around the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA). Their proposals included a new 6-lane freeway to start at a relocated Bryan Boulevard and running to the proposed eastern half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (later dubbed the I-73/74 Connector, listed as an unfunded project in the 2009-2015 STIP) with an additional spur leading to I-40 west of Greensboro at the split of Interstate 40 and Business 40 and a new I-73 routing which, from the NC 68-US 220 connector, put I-73 briefly onto NC 68 and then onto Bryan Boulevard (the western part to be relocated due to the need for a new airport runway for the FedEx hub facility) to the Greensboro Urban Loop freeway (I-840). (For a map of these proposed highways and more about this Future NC Interstate, go look at my NC Future Interstates Site). The impetus for this new route was to avoid the expensive reworking of the NC 68 interchange with I-40 and to take I-73 traffic off of I-40 between Winston-Salem and Greensboro.1,2 In August 2003, NCDOT added all the Greensboro MPO PTIA area highway proposals to its list of Division projects, committing state funds to more fully study the proposals, and build them once approved.
In March 2004 NCDOT let the $44.3 million contract for the construction of the Bryan Boulevard relocation and the PTI Airport Authority gave permission to the contractor to start construction on April 23, 2004.3,4 The relocated highway opened in November 2006 and included a new, temporary, entrance to the airport. Eventually by the time the Hub opened in 2009 a permanent airport interchange involving four bridges and nine ramps was completed to connect Bryan Blvd to the PTI terminals.5 (The other roadways proposed by the Greensboro MPO, if built, won't be constructed until at least 2020.)
Though NCDOT never announced a change in I-73's route, maps put out by NCDOT, both for their Strategic Highway Corridors initiative and regarding their US64/NC 49 corridor study showed Bryan Blvd between NC 68 and the Greensboro Loop as I-73. (To look at a Loop map and other connected projects,go to the NCDOT project map). And it was also shown in the map above from a report on the economic benefits of I-73 and I-74 (see the I-73/I-74 Links page), which says the routing information came from NCDOT. The 2009-2015 STIP, however, only listed a feasibility study in progress (Number FS-0507A) "To Determine Routing of Future I-73 in the Greensboro Area."6 At a June 2005 meeting in Greensboro when NCDOT announced the start of this study they said it could take two years to complete and would involve looking at four 15-mile corridors (two of which a spokesman said were almost likely to be ruled out, one of which was a route using US 220 south of Summerfield to the Greensboro Loop that would have required cutting through some of Greensboro's water supply lakes, the other was probably the routing along NC 68 to I-40), up to three miles of which would involve new construction. Greensboro officials stated at the time that they would like the study completed sooner, since the building of the FedEx hub had increased development pressures in the area and they would like to know as soon as possible what land should be preserved for I-73.9 The study was to produce a recommendation by July 2007, however, no formal announcement was ever made, and the feasibility study was still listed in the 2007 STIP.
A newspaper article in early August 2007 indicated that it was 'likely' I-73 would be routed on the Greensboro Urban Loop from US 220 to Bryan Blvd, as depicted in previous NCDOT documents.(7) At a public meeting in Summerfield later in September 2007 NCDOT officials discussed the two options for an I-73 interchange with NC 150 before local residents. This would only be needed if I-73 would be using the NC68-US 220 Connector.8 Finally, signs put up along the completed Greensboro Loop section in December 2007 referred to the route as either 'Future I-73/I-840' or 'I-40/I-73,' clinching the new route as official (see photo in Segment 5). Signs on Bryan Blvd at the the Loop interchange, however, only indicated 'To I-40, Winston-Salem.' A photo below shows that the new road built near the future Airport interchange may be up to Interstate standards, the interchange will be around the corner where a traffic lighted intersection currently exists. The roadway beyond the lights to the Greensboro Loop interchange appears to be built to interstate standards as well. The study's apparent recommendation came in October 2008, NCDOT and the Greensboro MPO agreed on a plan which takes I-73 off the Loop at Bryan Blvd then takes Bryan Blvd west about 1.8 miles beyond the airport interchange. Following this interchange, I-73 will continue west but be routed on a new freeway 1.2 miles long to an upgraded NC 68 where it will turn north where after less than a mile it will leave on the NC 68-US 220 connector (See I-73 Segment 3). The cost of upgrading all 3 miles between NC 68 and the Loop was estimated to be $144.3 million according to the 2014-2023 STIP released in September 2012.10
In July 2013, NCDOT released plans for constructing the next segment of the Greensboro Loop from Bryan Blvd to US 220/Battleground Ave to start in the fall of 2013. As part of the project, the exits on the I-73 portion of the Loop north of I-40 will be changed to reflect I-73 mileage. The exit number for W. Friendly Road will changed from 2 to 104 and I-73 and Bryan Blvd will become 107 northbound, remaining Exit 3 the other direction. The exit signs will also be updated along the current Bryan Blvd section between the Loop and the PTI Airport exit. The exit sign will read Old Oak Ridge Road/ PTI GSO Airport and will be given the exit number 109. I-73 North signage accompanying the exit 109 signage will list Martinsville, VA as a destination, or control, city. It is unknown whether NCDOT plans to change the exit signs and numbers along the existing roadways at the end of the project, or while the next segment of the Loop is being constructed.11 Here's a few images of the signage plans for Bryan Blvd, these signs started going up in April 2016, see the photo section for images of the first two signs shown below:
View from Old Oak Ridge Rd bridge over Bryan Blvd. showing I-73 near completion and the addition of exit signage on the future southbound roadway.
Zoomed view of new overhead exit signage on Future I-73 South at the PTI Airport exit (109). Some of the shields for Exit 107 may be covered up prior to the road opening.
View from Old Oak Ridge bridge over Bryan Blvd. showing progress in paving Future I-73 lanes back toward Flyover Bridge that will connect I-73 to Bryan Blvd.
Similar view to above, traffic can be seen on the left heading east toward PTI Airport on part of Bryan Blvd. that will be permanently closed after the I-73 Connector is complete.
Now the view from NC 68 North approaching the I-73 South interchange, the future NC 68 South ramp, now paved, can be seen on the left.
Overhead sign assembly at Future NC 68 North ramp, also paved, to I-73 South with I-73 North Exit sign and awaiting I-73 South sign when work completed.
A closer look at the nearly completed NC 68 North ramp to I-73 South.
Another look at the Future I-73 South ramp area showing more landscaping work needs to be completed approaching the NC 68 South ramp bridge.
Closer look at landscaping underway at Future I-73 North ramp to NC 68 South, with ramp bridge still being constructed over NC 68. Future I-73 bridges over NC 68 do not appear complete in the distance.
Closer look at I-73 bridges shows work still needed on the bridge structure along with work in the median approaching the bridge. The new Pleasant Ridge Road intersection can be seen under the bridge.
Looking across NC 68 South toward Future I-73 roadway showing guardrail installation has begun.
Approaching opened I-73 North Ramp from NC 68 showing work proceeding on unopened I-73 bridges over NC 68.
Latest image of progress in creating link between existing Bryan Blvd. and remaining segment of I-73 continuing to NC 68. Appears to be some pavement put down by Taxiway Bridge.
View from Ramp to PTI Airport of progress connecting section of Bryan Blvd closed to traffic on April 29 to the I-73 Connector roadway to NC 68.
Another view showing progress straightening the curve of Bryan Blvd to connect with the Future I-73 lanes going under the taxiway bridge. Project is scheduled to be complete by the end of June.
Looking north along NC 68 North showing overhead signage (covered) and lane striping and for Future I-73 interchange largely completed.
A closer look at the future interchange, the only apparently item still to install prior to opening are signage for the ramps and exit signage for the I-73 lanes.
Looking west toward the intersection of Pleasant Ridge Road and NC 68 showing bridges being constructed for future I-73 lanes.
View of the intersection of Pleasant Ridge Road and NC 68 showing bridges being constructed behind for future I-73 lanes and further behind for NC 68 South exit.
Now traveling north on NC 68 showing progress widening the roadway between the two I-73 exits.
Looking further north on NC 68 showing widening continuing up to future I-73 North bridges.
Closer view of almost completed bridges at future interchange between I-73 and NC 68 North.
Traveling under Future I-73 North bridge over NC 68 with southbound bridge just beyond showing structure is mostly complete.
Beyond the bridges, now looking further north at future off-ramp from I-73 South to NC 68 North with traffic signals having been installed and widening nearly complete.
Now turning around and heading south on NC 68 showing the overhead sign for the Future I-73 North exit being installed, though covered over. The pull-through sign for NC 68 not yet installed.
Further on NC 68 South approaching the future interchange with I-73 South.
Before traveling under the I-73 bridges a second set of overhead signs has been installed, this including a pull-through for NC 68. It appears there will be two left lanes available for traffic accessing I-73 North.
Beyond the bridges are the installed traffic lights for the NC 68 South on-ramp to I-73 North.
Along NC 68 South now between the two I-73 interchanges showing progress widening the roadway.
Along the side of NC 68 South sat several support posts for future I-73 signage.
Looking south at the intersection of NC 68 South and Pleasant Ridge Road at the bridges being built for Future I-73 lanes.
Now traveling under the Future I-73 North lanes bridge with the southbound bridge after. The ramp bridge for NC 68 South traffic from I-73 North in the distance.
Looking closer at progress building the bridge to carry NC 68 South traffic from I-73 North.
Beyond the construction zone on NC 68 South, showing the current overhead exit sign for Bryan Blvd. This exit will be changed to reflect PTI traffic to use I-73 South once completed between NC 68 and Bryan Blvd. by the Airport.
Now on Bryan Blvd. heading east, PTI traffic still used this route to access the airport until this part of Bryan Blvd. was closed when the I-73 portion was complete in July 2017.
Now on the other side of the airport looking at the future ramp split for I-73 North access to PTI Airport and Oak Ridge Road traffic to Future I-73 North (current Bryan Blvd. West), sorry for the rain drops.
View from the top of the Bryan Blvd. (Future I-73 North) on-ramp showing constuction ahead for the I-73 Connector to NC 68 and the PTI Taxiway Bridge.
A closer look at the progress in completing the I-73 Connector to NC 68 and Taxiway Bridge from the PTI Airport on-ramp onto west Bryan Blvd.
Looking closely at the PTI Taxiway bridge from Bryan Blvd. as the roadway turns south toward NC 68. Notice that paving has not begun on the I-73 lanes putting some doubt on May's proposed opening date.
Now on to the completed section of Bryan Blvd. upgraded to interstate standards between PTI Airport/Old Oak Ridge Road and the Greensboro Urban Loop. Here are a pair of To I-73 South trailblazers heading east prior to the 1/2 mile advance sign for the Loop.
Just prior to the Loop exit is another To I-73 South trailblazer. This will presumably be taken down when the I-73 Connector is completed and the signs are upgraded reflecting the official I-73 designation.
The last To I-73 trailblazer is before the future split between traffic heading for I-840 East and I-73 South toward I-40.
A closer look of what will be the split for I-840 East and I-73 South traffic at the interchange with Bryan Blvd.
New photo taken on February 19 from NC 68 North showing progress grading future ramps for I-73 from the direction of Bryan Blvd.
From earlier in February, taken from NC 68 South, showing progress in building ramp bridges to and from I-73 North (NC 68-US 220 Connector) over the roadway.
Further south in NC 68 prior to Pleasant Ridge Road showing one bridge built over the roadway for the I-73 connector to Bryan Blvd., while others remain to be completed.
On the other side of the construction project, a closeup view of the PTI Taxiway bridge over the future I-73 lanes, as seen from Bryan Blvd.
Looking north on NC 68 entering I-73 construction zone showing progress in building ramps that will take I-73 across the highway.
Close up view of bridge supporting structures being built near Pleasant Ridge Road for future I-73 bridges.
Looking at bridges being built on opposite side of NC 68 near Pleasant Ridge Road with crane for placing supports above the roadway.
View looking west on Bryan Blvd to start of Future I-73 Connector showing a clearer view of the Taxiway under construction now that a hill in front along the path of I-73 has been removed.
Closer look from Bryan Blvd. at I-73 roadway and PTI Airport Taxiway bridge construction, photo taken by Strider on 12/28/16.
View from NC 68 North approaching I-73 interchange area, work has recently been restarted in this area.
Further north on NC 68 looking across the highway at progress in building the future on-ramp from I-73 South to NC 68 South.
Another photo taken from NC 68 north showing the future widened roadway in vicinity of the Future I-73 interchange.
Further north on NC 68 approaching nearly completed future I-73 bridges.
Bryan Blvd Area (Photos by Strider from October 2016):
View from the top of the ramp from Old Oak Ridge Rd to Bryan West (I-73 North) showing that the PTI Taxiway is about to be completed.
NC 68 AREA-View at the north end of Regional Road where you can see the NC 68 South flyover taking shape that will take traffic to NC 68 south from I-73 North.
Taken from NC 68 north facing the relocated Pleasant Ridge Rd intersection. Traffic has been taken off the old road so they can start working on the completing the main I-73 bridges that currently ends abruptly on the left side of the photo.
Taken further north on NC 68 approaching the next set of I-73 bridges. The crews are working on placing the road decks on the bridges. To the right is the ramp to the US 220/NC 68 connector that should be open by the end of the year.
View from NC 68 South at the relocated Pleasant Ridge Road intersection showing the I-73 flyover bridges under construction that will carry I-73 over NC 68 to the I-73 connector to Bryan Blvd.
View from NCDOT Traffic Camera showing completion of paving project along Future I-73 North ramp from the I-840 Greensboro Loop to Bryan Blvd. Photo taken 8/18/16.
View from Inman Road on August 20, 2016 showing recent paving on future I-73 Northbound lanes continuing from ramp from I-840 East onto Bryan Blvd. Work is to start on revising ramp from Bryan Blvd to I-840 Greensboro Loop West to contain two lanes later this month, photo by Strider.
View from New Inman Road Bridge shows Bryan Blvd (Future I-73) northbound lanes being widening and paved for the ramp merge onto I-73 from I-840 East. Facing west toward Exit 109, the PTI-GSO Airport and Old Oak Ridge Rd interchange.
Another view from new Inman Road Bridge, but facing East toward the future I-840 interchange (Exit 107) showing widening being done to future I-73 on-ramp.
View of Future I-73 North from PTI Airport exit on-ramp showing the PTI Taxiway over Future I-73 lanes in the distance nearly completed.
Image of new overhead signage put up in April 2016 that has first use of I-73 South and I-840 West for the South Loop exit. The blank space on left sign is for I-73 North. According to the sign plans above, Raleigh was to be covered over until I-840 was completed. Photo courtesy of MazdaStrider.
Another new overhead exit set after the Loop exit features the Future I-73 exit number for the PTI/Old Oak Ridge Rd Exit, Photo courtesy of MazdaStrider.
View from Oak Ridge Rd/Airport exit by Strider on June 13, 2016 showing nearly complete left bore for future Airport Taxiway over I-73 with work on the right bore continuing.
View from on-ramp from PTI Airport Exit looking at cleared area for I-73 North and construction of new taxiway for PTI Airport, from Strider, May 2016.
Closer look at future I-73 alignment leaving Bryan Blvd with construction of PTI Airport taxiway in distance. Photo courtesy of Strider, May 2016.
Looking west at clearing at eastern end of project area, I-73 will go straight onto the Connector as Bryan Blvd. curves to the left. (Photo courtesy of Strider, August 2015).
Looking from now dead end of Regional Rd looking at construction equipment building the taxiway over the future I-73 highway lanes. Photo courtesy of Strider, May 2016.
View from the future I-73 Northbound lanes looking at bridge being constructed over highway. Photo courtesy of Strider, May 2016.
View from future I-73 North Lanes looking east toward PTI Airport showing progress in grading roadbed.
Traveling along NC 68 North, near Pleasant Ridge Rd. viewing the clearing for the future interchange with I-73 (and a rerouted Pleasant Ridge Rd).
Looking at the intersection of Pleasant Ridge and NC 68 and the start of construction of bridge piers for I-73 to go over NC 68 and Pleasant Ridge Rd.
From the route of Future Pleasant Ridge Rd, the road will go under I-73. These three piers under construction will carry the NC 68 south ramp, I-73 Southbound lanes, and I-73 Northbound lanes.
Looking at Pleasant Ridge Road at the NC 68 intersection where you can see the massive clearing taken place where I-73 will turn to the east to connect with Bryan Blvd (avoiding the water tower?)
Traveling farther north on NC 68, you can see the hill being made in order to build future I-73 bridges over NC 68 and for the future NC 68 North interchange.
Comment: If the freeways proposed by the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization between Bryan Blvd and I-40 and/or Bryan Blvd. to I-74 along the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway are constructed, why not give one an interstate designation such as I-273?