Image of NC Interstate 74 shield (from Shields Up!) Segment 3

Section of NCDOT State Transporation Map, 217-2018 showing I-73 Segment 3 along US 52 freeway

Where:  US 52, I-74 interchange, south of Mt. Airy, Surry County to NC 65 near Winston-Salem, Forsyth County

Length:  21 Miles

Needed:  Upgrade to Interstate Standards

Signed as: Image of US 52 shield (from Shields Up! Thumbnail of Future I-74 Corridor Sign

Segment Information

From the end of the I-74 freeway near Mt. Airy, I-74 is to use the current US 52 freeway to just north of Winston-Salem. This freeway was originally built in 1960s and is not up to current interstate standards1 (Interstates have higher specifications than normal freeways, some of specs include (at least) 12' wide lanes, 12 foot wide right shoulders, 10 foot wide left shoulders, 36 foot (in rural areas) or 10 foot medians (urban or mountainous areas), and design speeds of either 60 mph (urban) or 70 mph (rural). (For more about interstate standards, see this AASHTO page).

Early Attempt to Sign US 52 as Interstate 74

When the routes for I-73 and I-74 were finally agreed to in 1996, NCDOT asked that US 52 be signed as Interstate 74 south to NC 65 (where I-74 is to be routed off onto the eastern half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, See the I-74 Segment 4 page) and the US 52 freeway through Winston-Salem to I-40 signed as 'Temporary I-74.' This last proposal was rejected by AASHTO, however, which suggested that this part of US 52 could simply be signed 'To I-74'.2 The FHWA then refused to allow NCDOT to sign the rest of US 52 as I-74 because the road was not to interstate standards, nor Future I-74 because projects to upgrade the road were unfunded. Instead, they allowed NCDOT to sign the route as a 'Future I-74 Corridor.' An example of one of these signs is below. In order for NCDOT to sign the route at least as Future I-74, projects to improve the freeway must be funded in the state's transportation program. A project to upgrade the highway had been listed in the yearly State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) documents starting in 1999, but as unfunded. That project, No. I-4404, to upgrade the roadway to interstate standards was estimated to cost $101 million for both right-of way and construction.3 Given the revised NCDOT STIP procedure enacted in 2012 for listing only funded highway projects with construction to start within the next ten years, this project is no longer listed.

NCDOT Studying Other Alternatives

In the Draft STIP released in September 2012, a new listing appeared for this segment, a scheduled Feasibility Study (No. FS-1209A) to look further into the best ways of upgrading the 21.3 mile corridor to interstate standards.4 In reality, the highway's shoulders in Forsyth and Stokes Counties are actually quite close to interstate standard widths, after a recent upgrading of the road. In 2010 further construction work was done to upgrade the shoulders along with repaving the highway. The southern end of these projects were near the location of the planned Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (near NC 65). US 52 south of there is being upgraded to remove some of the problem interchanges, but this project to bring the road up to interstate standards is unrelated to I-74, go to my Interstate 285 page for more details. In 2011, a new interchange was opened up on US 52 in the town of King. The interchange and roadway 1/4 mile surrounding it were built to interstate standards (see photos below). Further projects to replace currently substandard bridges in both Forsyth and Stokes are underway or planned including the replacing of the bridge carrying NC 65 (Bethania-Rural Hall Road) over US 52. Work started in 2017 and will upgrade US 52 around the bridge from mile markers 114 to 116. Work is supposed to be completed in September 2019.5

New Moneys Move Up Beltway Interchange Work, but not US 52 Upgrade

In the fall of 2015, NC Governor McCrory announced changes made to the state's budgeting process that allows for greater funding for NCDOT construction projects. Among the projects highlighted to be completely funded was the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (see I-74 Segment 4) which would meet US 52 as part of a revised NC 65 interchange. With the approval of the newly funded projects by the Board of Transportation in January 2016, NCDOT scheduled a Design-Build project (R-2247ED) to reconstruct the NC 65 exit for the future US 52/Northern Beltway interchange to be let on September 20, 2016 and to start later in the fall of 2016.6 In 2018, NCDOT announced it had moved up the schedule for completing the Eastern Section of the Beltway and let contracts to build the remaining formerly unfunded sections from US 311 to US 52. Work is to be completed by 2023. An NCDOT official in discussing the awarding of the contract to build the I-74/US 52 interchange said that upgrading US 52 to interstate standards, though a subject of state highway planners, was still a long-term project. He mentioned the need to widen shoulders, upgrade certain bridges, and that the hilly terrain in some areas might have to be leveled. He gave no timetable for this work.7

Comment: Like along the pre-existing US 311 freeway prior to 2014, NCDOT should put up Future I-74 shields along this stretch of highway, or at least, change exit numbers to those reflecting I-74's mileage now that the I-74 freeway is completed from High Point to US 220 (I-73) in Randleman. Plus, instead of waiting until the Winston-Salem Beltway portion of I-74 is completed, US 52 south of the planned beltway and I-40 to US 311 east of Winston- Salem could be signed, as AASHTO approved them to do in 1997, as 'To I-74.' This would provide a continuous freeway route with I-74 signs from the Virginia border south and east almost to Rockingham. [Follow up, as part of the signage upgrade to US 311 when it officially became I-74 in 2014, signs were added to both US 52 South prior to I-40 and to I-40 West prior to the US 52 exit which listed 'To I-74 Use (the I-40 East or US 52 North) Exit.]

"Drive" This Segment Using Google Map's Street View

I-74 East at US 52: Prior to US 52 North Exit (January 2014)

Future I-74 East at King/Tobaccoville Exit: Prior to US 52 South Off-Ramp (November 2016)

Future I-74 West at NC 65: From US 52 North Off-Ramp to NC 65 (November 2016)

Photos from this Segment

Photo of view of Pilot Mountain from Scenic Overlook on US 52 in Stokes
County, Oct. 2010View of Pilot Mountain from Northbound US 52 Scenic Overlook, Stokes County. View taken on 10/24/10, freeway was undergoing rehabilitation including extending the width of shoulders (using gravel) that may make the signing of the route as I-74 easier to do in the future. (10/24/10)

Photo of new overhead signage placed at I-74 West Exit from US 52New signage at the northern end of the segment at the US 52 Exit. This signage was placed in the Summer of 2010 and corrects the previous sign which had the duplicative words To I-77, To Wytheville. (10/24/10)

Photo of new signage at the I-74 Exit of of US 52 North in Oct. 2010The signs at the US 52 ramp. The I-74 Exit sign was corrected too. The exit tab design makes it easy to transfer the tab to the other sign (and revised to Exit 17) when the segment is declared an interstate. (10/24/10)

Some 2012 Photos along US 52--

Photo of typical US 52 exit signage, for US 52 South in Pinnacle in July 2012Typical US 52 interchange signage, this for US 52 South (Future I-74 East) in Pinnacle, current Exit 129. (7/15/12)

Photo of new bridge over US 52 at King, July 2012The new 2011 bridge over US 52 at King. The freeway surrounding the new interchange was rebuilt to interstate standards. (7/15/12)

Photo of newly reconstructed US 52 at the King/Tobaccoville Exit looking
north, July 2012View of US 52 North (Future I-74 West) after the King interchange bridge showing modern interstate design of highway. (7/15/12)

Photo of new exit signage placed in 2011 for rebuilt King/Tobaccoville Exit in
July 2012New exit signage for modified King/Tobaccoville exit. The signs are up to standards, they await new exit numbers when the freeway becomes I-74 East. (7/15/12)

Photo of the Future I-74 Corridor sign near Mount Airy on US 52 south, photo
courtesy of H.B. ElkinsThis is the first 'Future I-74 Corridor' sign along US 52 South near Mt. Airy. Photo courtesy of H.B. Elkins. (2004) (Still standing in November 2016).