I-74 is to leave US 52 near NC 65 and be routed on the planned eastern half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway to US 311. The Winston-Salem Northern Beltway is a planned 34 mile arc freeway from US 158 southwest of the city to US 311 in the southeast. The Eastern Half is to run from US 52 to US 311. Though US 52 through Winston-Salem is a freeway, it is substandard and NCDOT from the beginning of I-74 planning apparently felt that routing through traffic away from Winston-Salem was a better option than upgrading US 52 through downtown. (Though in recent years they have completed projects to upgrade the highway and remove problem interchanges, and, they plan for US 52, if completely upgraded, to serve as an extension of I-285*).1
Though long-planned and constantly postponed, due to either litigation, or the lack of funding, the first segment of the Beltway started construction in December 2014. Both the pressing of NCDOT by local officials and the, not coincidental, recalculation of the new transportation funding mechanism announced by NCDOT in 2013, caused the Beltway project not only to jump from last place in the state Loop construction list, but to be placed on the Urban Loop Acceleration Plan list. Thus a project that only a couple years ago was projected not to start until the mid 2020's, has received enough funding, made possible by Grant Anticipation Revenue, or GARVEE, bonds, which allow NCDOT to borrow against future federal funding, to at least build the first couple segments, the first from Business 40/US 421 to US 158 was let in October, and awarded in early November 2014 to Dragados USA Inc of NYC for $153,999,950.2 The starting date of the project was December 10, 2014. The completion date has moved over the length of construction.3 A NCDOT Press Release from April 17, 2019 indicated it could open by the end of that year, it didn't, a map detailing new exit numbers for the US 421/Salem Parkway issued by NCDOT in January 2020 indicated the completion date was Spring 2020, then NCDOT said that it will open by August.4 Lanes were closed on the Salem Parkway/US 421 starting in late April to allow final paving of the ramps between the Beltway and US 421, and periodic closings continued into early September, suggesting opening was near. The segment was finally opened on the morning of September 55 (See photos section). (Drive on the new segment with this video). Jumping the gun a bit, the NCDOT traffic map, by Bing, added the first segment of the Beltway, despite it not being open yet, to its North Carolina map the third week of April:
Work started on a second segment from US 158 to US 311 on January 19, 2018. As of August 31, 2020 the work was listed as nearly 9/10 (88%) complete (rebounding after a reduction under the 70% complete listed at the end of January, implying a cost increase for the project). This project is to be officially completed by the early December 2021, but could open to traffic as soon as the end of 2020.6,7 On April 5, 2018, NCDOT announced it had awarded the contract to build segments D, E and F to Flatiron Constructors, Inc. for $120 million, this will take the Beltway from US 311 to US 52. Design work started on April 30, 2018 and, as of August 22, 2020 was over 1/2 (51.1%) complete, actual construction started in April 2019 with preliminary tree clearing, work is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2021.8 The remaining segments to be built are I-40 to US 421/Salem Parkway (Former Business 40), to be started in October 2020, and between I-74 and I-40, first delayed in September 2019 from late 2020 until March 2021, now with COVID-19 financial issues delayed until 2023, and as a result the eastern section will now not be completed until at least 2025.9 A Design-Build contract to create the Beltway interchange with US 52 (Contract C204137) was awarded in October 2018, and as of July 31, 2020 was 40.8% complete, actual work should start in the second half of 2019 and is supposed to be completed in the September 2022.4 (Preliminary work on the interchange (Contract C203840), modifying the US 52 South exit ramp with NC 65 and building a wider NC 65 bridge to accommodate future ramps between US 52 and the Beltway was started in January 2017, which also includes preliminary work on the western section interchange with US 421, and is scheduled to be completed by October 2019, see photos of construction below). Meanwhile, NCDOT's budget problems has caused them to postpone work on the western section of the Beltway. For a more detailed discussion of these projects, see the Project History section, below.
Here's a map of the Beltway Project by NCDOT showing the construction segments as of August 2017 with then dates of both Eastern and Western Beltway construction:
Taken along newly opened segment between US 421/Salem Parkway and US 158 by David Johnson, September 11, 2020:
Uncovered 2 Miles advance sign for NC 74 West (Future I-74 West) on US 421 North Salem Parkway (apparently Exit 227 is 2 miles from 224).
The newly uncovered 1-Mile advance overhead for the opened NC 74 West/Winston-Salem Northern Beltway exit.
The uncovered overhead exit sign along US 421 North/Salem Parkway with room to the left for a future I-74 East sign.
Driving along the two-lane ramp from US 421 toward the newly opened Beltway.
Noise walls parallel the right shoulder of the ramp from US 421 North as it merges with the completed Beltway lanes.
Lanes from both North and South US 421 about to merge onto Northern Beltway future I-74 West lanes.
After merging onto NC 74 West. The extreme left lane apparently will not open until more of the Beltway is completed.
First overhead sign gantry heading west, this has a 1 3/4 Miles advance sign for US 158.
View along new section of Beltway includes mountains in the distance along with much closer temporary mile marker.
The only current West NC 74 reassurance marker along the opened section of the Beltway.
View heading further northwest toward the US 158 exit.
The 1/2 mile advance overhead sign for the US 158 exit with the All Traffic Exit banner.
Overhead signage at the current western end of the Northern Beltway, the covered over US 311 exit sign already has its own All Traffic Exit banner, for the end of the year.
Taking the ramp to US 158 at the current end of the Beltway. Another temporary mile marker has been put up, for Mile 51, apparently NCDOT is not rounding up the number for this exit.
Overhead signage at the end of the ramp to US 158, only one arrow for North US 158.
Overhead signage at the NC 74 West ramp on US 158 West, a bigger sign will replace the NC 74 sign when I-74 is routed on the Beltway.
US 421 to US 158
Latest Photos taken by David Johnson, September 3, 2020:
Along the soon to be opened section between US 421/Salem Parkway and US 158:
Looking west from Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge toward soon to open temporary end of NC 74 Winston-Salem Beltway at US 158.
Looking east from the bridge along NC 74 and first overhead sign for US 421.
A zoomed image of the overhead signage at the current western end of the Beltway at US 158, notice the covered sign also includes an All Traffic Exit banner for the next segment of roadway.
Looking west to nearly complete C/D ramps along NC 74 East for the US 421/Salem Parkway interchange.
Looking northwest from current stub at eastern end of the current Beltway toward the soon to open interchange between NC 74 and US 421.
Closer view of overhead signage at beginning of NC 74 West at exit to US 421 North. The pull through is West NC 74 to East US 158.
Noise walls border soon to open ramp from NC 74 East to US 421 South Salem Parkway.
A panoramic shot of the soon open interchange between NC 74 and US 421.
Along US 158 West:
Traffic restricted to one lane approaching soon to open interchange.
A Junction NC 74 trailblazer approaching the interchange which will probably stay in place for the next 5 years.
New traffic signals on flash mode awaiting the opening of the Beltway/US 158 interchange.
Overhead signage at the future ramp to NC 74 East. There is room for a much large ramp sign when I-74 is completed.
Looking across US 158 East at ready to open ramp from NC 74 West.
Looking northwest beyond US 158 bridge showing section still under construction headed towards US 311.
From US 421/Salem Parkway:
Overhead signage in place, though covered over, on US 421 South awaiting opening of ramp to NC 74 West.
Noise wall along future ramp to NC 74 West from US 421 South Salem Parkway.
Overhead signs on US 421 South approaching the Beltway bridge and soon to be opened ramp to NC 74 East. Why is exit tab for Kernersville Road covered up?
Now on US 421/Salem Parkway heading north/west, the covered up overhead and gore signs at the soon to be opened ramp to NC 74 West.
Between US 158 and US 311, taken by David Johnson, September 11, 2020:
Panoramic shot looking at the Future I-74 Beltway being constructed west of US 158 from Williston Court.
Looking west toward US 311 interchange along Future I-74 Beltway from Williston Road bridge.
A closer look at the US 311 interchange from the Williston Road bridge.
Another view from Williston Road Bridge, a new VMS being put up heading east on Future I-74.
Another view looking west toward US 311 interchange along Future I-74 Beltway from the middle of the Williston Road bridge.
Between US 311 and Baux Mountain Road:
Looking east from near the completed US 311 bridge back toward Williston Road bridge.
Now looking west from US 311 bridge toward bridge being built for Dippen Road.
Now looking back east from US 311 bridge along the Future I-74 roadway.
Now looking west along Dippen Road following the Future I-74 roadway.
Further west along Dippen Road following the Future I-74 roadbed being graded.
Closer look along Dippen Road at the Future I-74 roadbed being graded.
View along Phelps Drive at site of Future I-74 bridge.
View along Phelps Drive looking east at site of Future I-74 roadway.
Now on Phelps Drive looking west at grading work continuing on site of Future I-74 Beltway.
Baux Mountain Parkway to NC 8/Germanton Road:
Now on NC 66/Old Hollow Road looking future bridge over Future I-74 Beltway.
NC 8/Germanton Road to NC 66 University Parkway:
View looking west from NC 66/Old Hollow Road at clearing and grading for Future I-74 ramp and roadway. Pilot Mountain can be seen in the distance.
Another look west from NC 66/Old Hollow Road at construction equipment clearing and grading for Future I-74 ramp and roadway.
Photos taken on February 7, 2020 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
Starting in the area of the future US 311 interchange and heading east (south):
Future I-74 roadbed being graded in vicinity of US 311.
Looking along Future I-74 / Winston-Salem Beltway roadbed heading (north)west from US 311.
New US 311 bridge being constructed over Future I-74 lanes.
Looking down future ramp from US 311 to I-74 East which appears to have been recently paved.
US 311 in vicinity of its future interchange with the I-74 Beltway.
End of future off-ramp to US 311 from I-74 East.
View looking south/east from US 311 along the Future I-74 Beltway toward US 158.
View from US 311 looking along Future I-74 West.
Now looking northwest toward Future US 311 interchange with the I-74 Beltway showing future westbound lanes paved.
New Dillon Farm Road bridge being built over the Future I-74 Beltway.
Future on-ramp from US 158 to I-74 East with concrete plant currently in the middle of the interchange.
Future on-ramp from US 158 to East I-74 now paved.
Looking across to off-ramp to US 158 from Future I-74 West showing the installation of overhead guide signs at the end of the ramp.
Looking north across Future I-74 Beltway lanes towards US 158 showing overhead gantry ready for signage.
Closer look at new overhead signage at end of future ramp from I-74 West to US 158. Looks like the sign on the right is missing an arrow.
View looking west beyond US 158 along future route the I-74 Beltway from Old Belews Creek Road.
Looking along Future I-74 East from Old Belews Creek Road bridge showing newly placed overhead sign for US 421 exit (and back of sign for US 158 exit westbound).
Looking west from Old Belews Creek Road bridge toward newly placed overhead sign for US 158 exit and tab for all traffic exit above.
Looking south toward US 421/Salem Parkway interchange with overhead exit and ramp signs installed.
The first advance sign for the US 158 exit on Future I-74 West will be at the 1 3/4 miles, seen from the vicinity of West Mountain Street.
The next advance sign for US 158 is for 1 1/4 miles. The empty bracket to the right I assume is for a right lane ends advisory sign.
Earlier photos taken on July 1, 2019 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
Traffic on US 52 North heading under bridge carrying ramp from US 52 South to NC 66, the construction signs in the distance for project upgrading US 52 for future I-74/Winston-Salem Northern Beltway interchange.
US 52 North at exit ramp to NC 65 work on Future Winston-Salem Beltway interchange in distance that includes new NC 65 bridge being constructed behind old one across both lanes of traffic.
Work for future ramps for the I-74/Winston-Salem Northern Beltway interchange along US 52 North beyond the NC 65 exit.
Future ramps from the Winston-Salem Northern beltway intersecting US 52 North around the 1-Mile advance sign for the Westinghouse Road exit.
Now heading south on US 52 (Future I-74 East) looking toward the Northern Beltway interchange work zone after the NC 65 exit.
Closer view of the start of the construction area which involves moving the NC 65 exit ramp for US 52 South.
Looking towards the new lane for moved NC 65 exit and newly installed guardrail behind orange construction barrels.
While the new ramp to NC 65 is open, landscaping work continues along the roadway.
Former NC 65 exit ramp blocked off by temporary barriers prior to new NC 65 bridge over US 52.
A 1/4 mile advance sign for the left NC 66 exit sits before new longer and wider NC 65 bridge nearing completion over US 52/Future I-74. (The NC 66 ramp is the approximate location the future Beltway will cross US 52).
Earlier Photos taken on April 21, 2019 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
US 158 traffic using new bridge over Future I-74/Winston-Salem Beltway.
Looking south from US 158 bridge along future I-74/Beltway concrete roadbed. Work has started on landscaping along the sides of the roadway.
Further along the US 158 bridge looking east showing progress in completing Future I-74 roadbed.
Now looking directly east/south from US 158 bridge towards Walkertown Guthrie Road with Business 40/US 421 interchange beyond.
Looking at under construction roadbed north of US 158 bridge, this section still not paved.
A look north/west toward the future US 158 interchange and beyond from Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge.
Looking south/east along future Beltway lanes from Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge.
Looking west/north from Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge along future I-74 roadway back to US 158.
Going further east, looking north/west back toward Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge.
Now looking south toward the future Business 40/US 421 interchange showing the built up ground for future Beltway lanes.
Looking north/west along built up graded roadbed for future I-74 lanes leading up hill from Business 40/US 421.
Looking from top of hill south and east back over future Business 40/US 421 interchange.
Another view looking down at the future Beltway interchange showing future flyover ramps to current Business 40 East, Future US 421/Salem Parkway South.
Earlier photos taken on December 13, 2018 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
Business 40 to US 158 Segment:
Taken after a December snowstorm, the view from Business 40 East (Future US 421 Salem Parkway) of flyover ramp for I-74/Beltway interchange with bridges to carry I-74 over the highway in the distance.
Looking north at roadway under construction to connect to flyover ramp over Business 40 East.
Now looking south at ramp under construction to connect flyover bridge to Future I-74 lanes.
Closer look at ramp bridge over Business 40 East. Appears to be still significant work to do, one of the reasons the opening has been pushed back to the end of next year instead of April 2019.
Close view of I-74 bridges over Business 40 East, as with the flyover ramp, there's still a lot of work to do here also to complete the bridges.
Looking across the Business 40/US 421 West lanes toward the future I-74/Beltway still under construction. A noise wall is going up along the future ramp to I-74 West.
Another look at the interchange construction area from across Business 40.
A noise wall is being constructed along the future ramp from I-74 to East Business 40.
Moving north to the vicinity of E. Mountain Street, the roadbed for I-74 is being built up to meet the existing bridge.
Looking east at the built up roadbed in the vicinity of E. Mountain Street.
Looking further east back toward the Business 40/US 421 interchange area.
Now further north, looking west from Walkertown-Guthrie Road bridge towards the future US 158 interchange.
Now looking east from the same spot back toward Business 40/US 421.
Looking back west toward US 158 at another angle showing completed US 158 bridge and work started on the next section to US 311 beyond.
Looking at another angle to the east, a noise wall under construction can be seen after the curve in the distance.
Looking to the east from the completed US 158 bridge back toward Walkertown-Guthrie Road.
Sign on US 158 bridge heading east indicating dedicated to Officer Stephen Levi Amos II.
US 158 to US 311 Section:
Looking west from Williston Road near site of future bridge over the Beltway, looking towards US 311.
Looking east from current Williston Road over future bridge under construction over I-74/Beltway lanes.
Another view west from site of new Williston Road bridge under construction. Road in distance is US 311.
Looking east again, over the frame of the future Williston Road bridge to the I-74/Beltway lanes under construction.
Previous Photos taken on April 1, 2018 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
Looking south toward the future interchange with Business 40/US 421 showing little progress in grading the roadway but construction proceeding on a flyover ramp for the Beltway exit.
A closer view of the new flyover ramp at the future Business 40/US 421 interchange beyond the US 421 roadway.
Looking north or west along the future Beltway alignment toward West Mountain Street showing lack or progress in grading this part of the roadway.
View of the Beltway bridge over West Mountain Street, which appears to be mostly complete, except for final grading.
View of concrete Beltway roadbed from completed Walkertown Guthrie Road bridge.
Looking south or east along the Beltway from the Walkertown Guthrie Road Bridge showing progress in grading along the roadbed completed the year before.
Looking north/west toward the future US 158 interchange from Walkertown Guthrie Bridge showing progress in extending the concrete roadbed toward the exit, some landscaping and on US 158 itself the construction of bridges to take the final alignment of the highway over I-74.
Previous Photos taken on October 11, 2017 by Site Contributor, J. Austin Carter:
Looking northwest toward US 158 from completed Walkertown-Guthrie Road bridge over Future I-74. There has been significant progress with placement of the concrete road bed.
A closer look at the new concrete roadbed for Future I-74 from Walkertown Guthrie Road looking towards the future US 158 interchange.
Looking now southeast from the completed Walkertown Guthrie bridge along I-74 roadway headed toward Business 40 showing progress in completing road surface.
Traveling south to near Business 40, view looking northwest toward bridge under construction over Mountain View Rd.
Closer look at progress grading Future I-74 Roadbed heading northwest toward bridge over Mountain View Road.
Looking south toward Business 40/US 421 showing grading underway for Future I-74/Beltway interchange.
Earlier Photos taken on April 13, 2017 by J. Austin Carter:
View of paved Future I-74/Beltway lanes just south of US 158.
Looking north toward US 158 across the future interchange construction zone, including the temporary concrete plant between the original and current US 158 alignment.
View southeast from completed Walkertown Guthrie Bridge over now paved Future I-74 East lanes.
Now looking north along graded Future I-74 lanes toward the nearly completed West Mountain Street and Railroad Bridge (photos of bridge below).
View looking south toward Future I-74/Business 40 (US 421 Salem Parkway) and progress in constructing the interchange (photos from Business 40 below).
Recent Photos taken on March 30, 2017:
Looking west Business 40/US 421/NC 150 entering the Winston-Salem Beltway construction zone.
Approaching site of future I-74/Beltway interchange with Business 40 showing clearing and early structure construction.
Still continuing west and approaching the grading to support future I-74/Beltway Bridges over Bus. 40/US 421/NC 150.
A closer look at construction going on to the south of the Eastbound lanes on Bus. 40/US 421/NC 150.
Looking north from Bus. 40/US 421/NC 150 along Future I-74/Beltway alignment showing construction of support structures for future bridges.
A closer look at the buildup of soil for the future crossing of I-74 West then I-74 East lanes over Business 40/US 421 and NC 150.
Heading now east on Bus. 40/US 421/NC 150 approaching the I-74/Beltway construction zone.
Looking northwest over Bus. 40/US 421/NC 150 at construction crane at site of future I-74 bridges.
Now further north, heading east on West Mountain Street approaching bridges being built to carry I-74/Beltway traffic over the roadway and railroad tracks.
Now on the east side of the bridge looking back from church parking lot on the old alignment of West Mountain Street, showing support structures for bridges largely in place.
Looking across both old and new alignments of West Mountain Street showing construction to complete grading of the I-74 lanes going on south of the bridges.
Looking west down railroad tracks showing bridge crossing both the tracks and the new alignment of West Mountain Street.
A closer look at the northern end of the bridge above what was the old alignment of West Mountain Street and showing further fill is needed before lanes can be paved to meet the bridge structure.
Now at the northern end of the project, looking west along US 158 approaching the interchange construction area. US 158 traffic has been realigned to the south through the work zone.
Further west on US 158 in construction area showing work has largely been completed in creating elevated areas for Future I-74 bridges.
Looking north of US 158 in the construction zone showing future ramp concrete structures covered over by tarps.
Now heading back east on US 158 looking down the hill to the Beltway interchange construction area showing how US 158 has been re-routed around the work zone.
Looking from south of US 158 at temporary concrete plant built in the future interchange work zone.
Looking south from US 158 over the alignment of I-74/Winston-Salem Beltway showing grading being completed.
Another view of the temporary concrete plant just east of the future I-74/Beltway lanes being graded south of US 158.
Here are a few photos of construction progress on the first segment of the Beltway taken by J. Austin Carter on August 27, 2016:
One of the many road closed barriers placed along residential streets along the corridor of the Northern Beltway due to the road's construction.
Future Beltway section being graded between Business 40 and US 158.
Part of newly constructed part of Beltway showing built-up roadway.
From West Mountain Street portion of new bridge being constructed for Beltway near temporary cement plant.
Looking at massive clearing and earth moving being done at site of future interchange between the Beltway and US 158, seen in the distance.
Future bridge being constructed along path of Northern Beltway.
View from bridge under construction shows the amount of earth moving being done along the I-74/Beltway corridor south of US 158.
Closer look at same bridge showing deck under construction over future Northern Beltway/I-74 near US 158.
Another scene of grading for future Beltway lanes east of Winston-Salem, here the future eastbound lanes are further along than the west.
Beltway construction being threaded between houses, seen in the middle and right.
A closer view of construction at the northern end of the project for the future interchange with US 158.
Here are a few more photos of construction progress on the first segment of the Beltway taken by J. Austin Carter on April 19, 2016:
Looking along West Business 40 showing clearing progress for future Beltway interchange.
Looking at construction crews working just north of Business 40 on Future Northern Beltway interchange.
Looking across Business 40 to view clearing for the interchange going on to the south.
Work is seen progressing in building future bridge supports and concrete pipes are ready for placing for site drainage.
Looking further north showing cleared corridor for I-74/Northern Beltway's path toward US 158.
Here's some previous photos taken by J. Austin Carter on December 14, 2015:
NCDOT plans to build the Eastern Half of the Northern Beltway in 7 segments. Based on a public relations request, AARoads Forum member Roadsguy obtained copies of the plans from NC 66 to US 311 and was kind to forward them to me. The plans feature updated signage for Exits 49 and 50 on I-74 East for when the Beltway is open west of US 311:
As can be seen on the US 311 sign, a future overlay with North is provided, indicating NCDOT is planning to further shorten the route's length, this time eliminating the route between the Beltway and US 52 in Winston-Salem.
Here's a plan for the next exit westbound, Baux Mountain Road:
The next interchange will be for NC 8, here's the 1/2 mile advance sign:
The next exit is for NC 66/University Parkway, here's a plan for a sign assembly at the NC 8 exit:
The next plan for the NC 66 exit shows what the future I-74/US 52 interchange signage will look like when the ramp opens, and later:
Plan for future ramp signage once I-74 is signed along the Beltway:
Plans for the second segment, from US 158 to US 311 were put on NCDOT's website on August 22, 2017, with a letting in October. The second segment will run almost 2 miles. Here's plans showing the new exit number for the US 311 exit:
Sign plan for US 311 interchange westbound at US 158 exit (already existing from previous contract, see plans below) showing it will be designated Exit 49.
Plan for new arrow-per-lane sign to be placed at US 158 exit when I-74 is completed east to US 311. Notice the lack of reference to Business 40 (seen on the earlier plan below) on the US 421 sign. In the spring of 2017, NCDOT announced that the official name for the Business 40 route in the future will be the US 421 Salem Parkway, implying that the Business 40 designation will be dropped.
Plans for construction of the first segment of the Beltway were put on NCDOT's website on August 19, 2014 as advertising for the project letting on October 21. The first segment will run 3 miles between Business 40/US 421 and US 158, Reidsville Road it will also include the building of approximately 1 mile of the Loop further eastward toward I-40 that will be completed in the future. The signing plans indicate the route will be temporarily signed as NC 74, until the route is connected to at least I-40. The NC 74 signs can be seen in this plan for the initial signage at the Business 40 exit:
Plan for signage on Business 40 East, showing temporary NC 74 designation, to be changed to I-74 when Loop is, at least, partially completed east to I-40.
Initial and future signs for I-74 East at the Business 40/US 421 Exit. Since these plans were published, NCDOT has announced it will remove the Business 40 designation from what will be called the US 421 Salem Parkway around 2020.
Signage plans for the US 158 exit ramp signage to I-74 East.
Signage planned for I-74 West at the US 421 interchange.
Plans for signage approaching I-74 along US 421 North at South Main St in Kernersville, the exit number is now 227.
Route shields to be featured on this segment of the Beltway. Though the signs for the Business 40 exit do not included NC 150, which is routed on the highway along with US 421, the ground signage still indicates its presence. Again, the plan is for the Business 40 designation to be removed from US 421 in 2020.
The plans indicate that the exit numbers along this segment will be 53 A&B for US 42 and 50 for US 158. The sign plan for the next segment to be constructed, from US 158 to US 311, indicates that US 311 will be Exit 49.
News for Eastern Section Construction in recent years
The remaining segments of the Beltway
were unfunded, and their construction dates uncertain, until
December 2014. That month NCDOT released their latest draft
State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) document,
formally approved in June 2015, which listed all funded projects
in the state from 2016 to 2025. In the 2018-2027 STIP released
in August 2017, among Forsyth County projects to be funded,
included all of the remaining six Beltway segments. Next in line
was (Segment C) the 1.4 mile US 158 to US 311/Walkertown Road
segment which was awarded on December 6, 2017 at a cost of $68
million, work started in January 2018 with a planned completion
by November 2021.10 The two segments (AA and AB) to
connect these completed Beltway segments to I-74/US 311, from
Business 40/US 421 to I-40 and from I-40 to I-74/US 311, will
together cost $273 million and will start in 2020 and 2021.
Contracts for the other 3 segments, unfunded in the previous
TIP, D, US 311 to Baux Mountain Road, E, Baux Mountain Road to
NC 8, and F, NC 8 to US 52, all Design-Build projects, were put
out to bid in March 24, 2018, delayed 5 months in October 2017,
funded due to reforms to the 2015-17 state
budget that added over $700 million in new
moneys for transportation over the next two years, work is
to be completed in 2021.11
A contract which will build the Beltway interchange with US 52
was let in August 2018, work then start in November 2018 with
the project set to be completed in September 2022.12
Western Half of Beltway Construction Stopped by Lawsuit in 1999
The building of a beltway around Winston-Salem was first proposed in 1965 but was not seriously planned until the early 1990's. The first hearings over choosing alternative paths for the route were held from 1992 to 1996. All permits for the western half of the freeway, from US 52 to I-40, were approved and construction was set to start in 1999. However, in February 1999 a lawsuit was filed by 'Friends of Forsyth,' a citizens group that opposed construction of the highway, halting construction. Though the initial lawsuit was thrown out, subsequent court decisions delayed the start of construction until a judicial review of NCDOT's environmental impact study was completed. With the review complete, the combined eastern and western-half Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) report was released in September 2004 and public hearings on the report were held in November and December 2004.14
Support Builds for Constructing Eastern Half of Beltway
While waiting for NCDOT to wrap up its work, supporters of speeding up construction of the Beltway and upgrading US 52 north of Winston-Salem to interstate status formed the 'I-74 Piedmont Corridor Group' in 2003 and enlisted the support of former Governor Jim Hunt to help lobby legislators and NCDOT board members to build the highway.14 In March 2003, the Winston-Salem Journal wrote an editorial encouraging NCDOT to build the eastern half of the Beltway (I-74) first, arguing that there was less opposition to this part of the highway and the increased traffic on US 52 since the completion of the I-74 connector from I-77 to US 52 was leading to increased traffic congestion and accidents in downtown Winston-Salem.16 The FHWA signed off on the final environmental impact plans in December 2006. NCDOT then announced in March 2005 that construction on the western half would be postponed to 2015 at the earliest.**17 Money saved from the postponement would be used to construct the eastern half, I-74, which was listed in the 2009-2015 STIP as Project No. U-2579, and scheduled to start construction by 2009. However, in 2008 another lawsuit was filed regarding the accuracy of the environmental study done for the western portion.18 Since NCDOT had combined the west and east portions in the document sent to the FHWA, the lawsuit stopped any activity on the Eastern segment as well, even right- of-way acquisition.
New Construction Schedule set in 2009
While the new lawsuit was being settled, NCDOT moved forward on planning to build the eastern segment. According to the 2009-2015 STIP, about $224 million was to be used to acquire the right-of-way while about $450 million had been set aside for construction, a total of $702 million.19 This new total cost was substantially higher than that quoted in previous TlPs. The increased costs were due to a few years since the last cost estimate, higher material costs, and the agreement by NCDOT to build more bridges along the route to help aide local traffic, plus expenses for environmental mitigation.19 Construction was to start first on the 3.4 mile portion of the highway from US 158 (Reidsville Road) to US 421 (Business 40), the 2009 cost estimate was $165 million. The 3.1 mile section between Business 40 and I-40 would start next with a cost of $160 million. Work would then start on the 1.4 mile section between US 158 and US 311 at a cost of $52 million.20 The remaining segments were unfunded but officials at the time were confident moneys would be found to complete them after the original three segments were complete.21 A final alternative to what was originally called the Eastern Half extension south of Bus. 40 to US 311 was chosen in March 2005. Construction was to start on this 4.4-mile segment after the other segments were completed.22 The chosen alignment puts the location of the interchange between the Beltway (I-74) and US 311 to the east of the current US 311/I-40 interchange and between the Ridgewood and Union Cross Road exits.23 The decision by Dell to locate a new company facility in Winston-Salem helped impact the choice of alternatives for the one chosen (N2-S1) kept the Union Cross Road interchange open to access the industrial park where the Dell plant was built. Ironically, Dell decided to close the plant in 2009, before a final decision on the Beltway was made. The NCDOT Winston-Salem Northern Beltway website has Maps of the chosen alternative, along with a Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement document released in January 2007.17 The last lawsuits were finally dismissed on May 20, 2010 by Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder who said neither the Friends of Forsyth nor the NC Alliance for Transportation Reform could prove that the environmental studies performed for the FHWA were inadequate.
Project Halted Again, This Time by NCDOT, in 2010
Before any of the work activity outlined above began in 2010, however, NCDOT committed to a reform process which included devising a new STIP process and a priority list for construction of the state's 21 beltway projects. Only the top eight projects on the list would go forward at the present time given limits in funding. When the list was produced in late July 2010 the Northern Beltway was listed last, 21st out of 21 projects. This meant not only that the project was not funded but that no work of any kind would happen until at least 2020, even work on obtaining the right-of-way, which affected citizens were promised would start in 2010.24 Citizens affected by the ruling vowed to fight it. They got NCDOT to change it's priority formula in 2011 allowing loop projects to be broken up and evaluated in segments. The good news was the Winston-Salem Beltway was moved up, the bad news was that it now ranked 13th, still not eligible for funding. The project again looked to be in limbo. NCDOT meanwhile appeared to be 'hedging its bet' where the next Segment of I-74 would start by placing I-74 mileposts and I-74 exit numbers along the US 311 freeway east of Winston-Salem in late 2010 starting at its interchange with I-40, not where the Beltway is planned to tie in. This could be if either I-74 ends up being routed through downtown on US 52, or on an proposed extension on the US 311 freeway across I-40 and into Winston-Salem.
NCDOT Puts Beltway Back on Priority Track
Outcry by citizens affected by the Beltway's path and threats of lawsuits by Winston-Salem and other cities with delayed loop projects in 2010 and 2011 forced the governor to intervene. In March 2011, under political pressure, the NCDOT Board of Transportation requested that its department staff conduct a limited segment analysis of ten Urban Loop projects, including Winston-Salem's. The loop projects were rated as to their needs and benefits. Each factor under Needs and Benefits was given a score. Those points were then added up and divided by the project's total cost. NCDOT then used the resulting numbers to rank the projects. Six projects, including Winston-Salem's, were then 'accelerated' into the state's TIP Plan using $400 million in Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, bonds.26 The new schedule for the Beltway started property acquisition in 2012 and started construction on the first segment from Business 40 to US 158 after the project was let in December 2014, including a bridge to carry I-74 over Business 40 (see sign plans above).27 In November 2016 NCDOT announced further acceleration of the Eastern Section project segments, with each segment getting advance 2 to 3 years. From the NCDOT press release, here's a table of the new construction schedule:30
Construction Let Date
Design-Build Let Date
Let date Acceleration
Baux Mtn Rd
Baux Mtn Rd
The project has been further accelerated since, with work starting on the 2 mile section from US 158 to US 311 on January 20, 2018 with completion anticipated for November 2021.6 The letting of the remaining projects from US 311 to US 52, design-build contracts covering 6.9 miles from US 311 to just east of US 52 was delayed until March 2018, work started in April 2018 and no delay in completion is expected. NCDOT has also let a design-build contract to build the future Beltway interchange with US 52. Work started in October 2018 with an anticipated completion date of September 2022, the project is 15.0% complete as of June 30, 2019.31
For the latest official information on the Beltway, go to NCDOT's Winston-Salem Northern Beltway project page.
*In November 2004, NCDOT released, as part of its Strategic Highway Corridors initiative, a map of existing and proposed Triad area highways showing an I-285 extending from I-85 in Lexington to I-40 in Winston-Salem with a note saying it would be extended to I-74 if US 52 was upgraded to interstate standards.28 Finally, in 2019, I-285 from I-85 to I-40 was signed, after all projects to upgrade the highway to interstate standards were completed. In May 2019, NCDOT got permission from AASHTO to designate US 52 from I-40 to the future Northern Beltway interchange as Future I-285. It is unknown at this time when projects to upgrade this part of the highway will be funded. For more information, visit my Future I-285 page.
**On the same SHC Triad map29 the western half of the Beltway, from US 52 (I-74) to I-40, is signed as:
(information on I-274 is on the Winston-Salem
Northern Beltway main page.)
***There seems to have been some confusion over the years as to the actual Eastern Beltway mileage. The 2004- 2010 TIP listed the distance for the Beltway from US 52 to I-40 as 12.6 miles and the extension to US 311 as 1.6 miles (for a total of 14.2 miles). Then the subsequent TIP listed the entire length as 12.6 miles (used in the map below). The Strategic Corridors list says the total mileage is 16.2. A 2006 newspaper article listed the distance as 17.4 miles. The 2009-2015 STIP listed the project distance from US 52 to I-40 as 14.3 miles. A document released at a public hearing on August 14, 2008 indicated the Eastern section as 12.4 miles and the Eastern Extension as 4.4 miles, for a total of 16.8.31 This, however, doesn't include the interchange at US 52. The Draft STIP released in December 2014 and all subsequent STIPs, lists the combined mileage for projects U-2579 and U-2579A as 17.1 miles, so this is the mileage number I am using.32
Here's a map showing the then newly funded Beltway segments, from the Winston-Salem Journal, the numbers refer to all the funded projects in the Draft NCDOT 2015-2024 STIP:
Graphic by Cassandra Sherrill16
If anyone else has photos of the current roads in the vicinity of this segment, feel free to E-mail me.
A detailed map from 1999 showing part of the proposed I-74 route between Bus. 40 and US 311 in more detail: