Where: US 311 Freeway, from end of Winston-Salem Beltway, Forsyth County to North Main Street, High Point, Guilford County (Former Business 311)
Length: Approx. 7 Miles
Completed: August 2014*
I-74 is to be routed from the southern end of the planned Winston-Salem Northern Beltway onto the existing US 311 freeway to the new US 311 Bypass of High Point. From the chosen alternative for the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway Eastern Half Extension, the Beltway and US 311 will meet about a mile west of the Union Cross Road interchange. The segment then runs east about 7 miles to Exit 65, the former US 311 exit in High Point. The segment received its I-74 signage in August 2014, all the way to I-40, a distance of about 10 miles, the extra three miles being a temporary connection until the Winston-Salem Beltway is completed. This was a lot earlier than many people expected, and, as it turned out, was largely due to a mistake by the FHWA. Details are below.
Initial Plan for I-74 Routing
When the I-74 route was created in 1997 it was thought the existing US 311 freeway needed to be upgraded to Interstate standards before it could be signed as I-74. There had never been any mention in the NDOT STIP documents since 1997, however, about a project to upgrade this roadway. The only construction that took place on this segment for the first decade was that during the summer of 2002 NCDOT had a construction crew repaving US 311 and widening the shoulders of the highway at a cost of $4.4 million, however, from appearances(as seen in the photos below), it appeared the widening was not quite to interstate standards.1 It was suggested in the meanwhile that maybe NCDOT was considering to request a waiver from the FHWA to allow them to sign this segment as I-74 once the Winston-Salem Beltway connection was completed, however, due to continuing delays with this project, by 2008 it appeared this might not occur until sometime in the 2020s.
The First appearance of I-74 Signage
In the summer and fall of 2008 though, NCDOT contractors started putting up new exit signs along this segment with I-74 milepost numbers, including the current US 311 exits with Ridgewood Road and I-40, even though that are not along the proposed path of I-74.2 (For a complete list of exits go to the I-74 Exit List.) Later, in December 2008, NCDOT also put up Future I-74/US 311 signage along the same stretch all the way to I-40.3 Speculation at the time on the reasoning behind extending I-74 signage and exit numbers to current I-40 could be that NCDOT was not convinced the Beltway route may be the final I-74 route (see I-74 Segment 4 for more information) or they wanted a continuous I-74 route to be signed if the rest of the surrounding I-74 segments are completed before the Beltway, or if there was a significant delay in constructing the final segment to US 311. If US 52 is upgraded through Winston-Salem first, conceivably I-74 could take that to I-40, then east to US 311, at least temporarily.2 NCDOT in 2011 funded a feasibility study to look at upgrading the I-40 US 311 interchange that could be part of that process. In a somewhat confusing move, on the Guilford County part of this roadway, they also replaced one of the two Future Interstate 74 Corridor signs (the one heading west) similar to the one seen on the AARoads website.
Interstate 74 Arrives Sooner Than Expected
In April 2012 though speculation ended, NCDOT sent a letter to the FHWA asking that they officially add this segment (all of US 311 in Forsyth County west to I-40) to the interstate system as a Future Interstate Route.4 They told the Regional administrator that they would work with their District 9 office to expedite the placement of signs quickly after they got the approval. This was odd given that Future I-74 signs have been up for four years. In October 2012 NCDOT did receive a reply from the FHWA. From the wording in the letter, it appeared that NCDOT, at the request of the FHWA Regional Office, had investigated the possibility that the US 311 freeway could be considered interstate standard. Despite the findings of NCDOT engineers sent to investigate, that the shoulders along US 311 in Forsyth County were not up to interstate standards, NCDOT was granted permission to sign the route from I-40 east (including the East Belt freeway (see I-74 Segment 6) to the freeway's current end at Cedar Square Road, a total of 22.1 miles) as I-74.5 On March 4, 2013, as the result of this approval, it was reported that NCDOT planned to put new I-74 signs along the US 311 route during the summer of 2013.6 However, no sign project took place during the summer nor during the rest of 2013.7 In April 2014, a project to place I-74 signs along US 311 was finally advertised by NCDOT. The Division 9 project (Contract DI00053; TIP I-5511) was let on May 14, 2014 and, many weeks after NCDOT gave permission to start on June 2, began on August 7 and was completed by November 2014.8 Given the small amount of work needed (the winning bid was only $79,000), however, most, if not all the I-74 signage was in place by the end of third week of August.9
Signing I-74 a Mistake?
In late August 2014, after most, if not all the new signage was placed, a report appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal by Wesley Young, widely reprinted elsewhere in the Triad area, that the signing of I-74 was due to a mistake by the FHWA's regional office in interpreting the April 2012 letter from NCDOT. As indicated above, the letter talked about two segments of I-74, the recently completed East Belt project NCDOT wanted signed as I-74 and the Forysth County US 311 freeway which NCDOT asked to be designated Future I-74, that was constructed in the 1970s. The April letter reaffirmed a previous letter sent to Raleigh in 2011 that had stated the 'requested sections of I-74 were built to Interstate Standards at the time of construction" (emphasis added). Apparently the regional office took that to mean both segments were of current interstate standards and forwarded the letter to the Secretary's office in Washington for approval. The October 2012 letter from Deputy Director Mendez granted the I-74 designation to the entire freeway east of I-40 saying "Our North Carolina Division Office confirms U.S. 311 from I-40 to S.R. 1993 [Main Street in High Point] … has been completed to Interstate standards." When the mistake was realized later, the FHWA gave NCDOT permission to keep the signs up as long as the agency planned to upgrade the segment to interstate standards as part of a future rehabilitation project for the roadway. No project is currently planned though, according to an NCDOT official.10 A repaving contract let in February 2016 had plans that suggested the possibility of widening the shoulders, possibly to interstate standards. A cross-section of the paving plan from the contract documents is below 11. A check of Google Maps Street View images taken of work completed in November 2016, however, showed while the shoulders may have been widened a little, they still were not wide enough for an interstate.
Finally, here's a map from Journal article that shows the extent of I-74 signage after the completed sign work in 2014, and the remaining segments of I-74 planned in the Triad area:
Map courtesy of Winston-Salem Journal, August 29, 2014.10
Here's a photo of the new signage along I-40 East, courtesy of Andrew Dye of the Winston-Salem Journal:
Before August 2014, the only evidence of I-74 along US 311 was this trailblazer installed on I-40 East prior to the future I-74/ US 311 South exit, photo courtesy of J. Austin Carter:
According to NCDOT, the plans below indicates what the I-74/US 311 exit and guidance signs would appear as after they were installed along I-40 and US 311 from Winston-Salem to High Point, see Photos section below to see the new signage as installed in August 2014 (the plans will stay up until more photos of the real signage can be posted):
A. Guide Signs. These are to replace the current Future I-74/US 311 signs (see photos of existing signs below), five in each direction after Exits 65, 63, 60, 59 and 56 westbound and 55, 56, 59, 60 and 63 eastbound:
Eastbound above and westbound below:
B. Signs on East I-40
These signs will replace the current Exit 196 US 311 overhead signs at 1 1/2 miles, 1/2 mile and at the exit ramp:
C. Sign on I-40 West
This is the sign replaced the current US 311 exit sign at the westbound exit ramp, see photo below.
D. To I-74 Signs
NCDOT is also going to place two 'To I-74' guide signs at the US 52-311/I-40 interchange in Winston-Salem. The first will be on I-40 West:
The second will be on US 52/US 311 South:
The final new sign will be on I-74 West prior to the North Main St exit in High Point, replacing the existing left-side sign with only a US 311 overhead:
All Plans courtesy of NCDOT.12
The plans did not indicate the placement of any I-74 signs at on-ramps along US 311 under this contract. Signs were still not present in the weeks since the overhead signs were installed. It is possible that NCDOT crews will install these signs themselves around the same time as the contractor is placing those under the signing contract.
Exit 55 I-40 East Greensboro (WB, US 311 merges with I-40 West)*
Exit 56 Ridgewood Rd*
Exit 59 Union Cross Rd
Exit 60 High Point Rd
Exit 63 NC 66, Kernersville
Exit 65 No. Main St, High Point, DOWNTOWN**
*Not along currently planned I-74 alignment.
**The original sign read Business US 311 High Point [DOWNTOWN]. In November 2009 NCDOT requested, and AASHTO approved, the decommissioning of Business 311 through High Point. The signs were changed in 2010 as a result.
I-74 East/US 311 South at I-40: From I-40 East Off-Ramp (November 2016)
I-74 West/US 311 North at Union Cross Road: From New Off-ramp to Union Cross Road (August 2016)
I-74 West/US 311 North at No. Main Street: From traffic light prior to No. Main Street On-Ramp (November 2016)
Photos of interchange signage contributed by J. Austin Carter in May 2016:
New guide signage placed along newly widened Union Cross Road at its interchange with I-74 and US 311.
View of I-74 and US 311 trailblazers in the distance from eastbound I-74 off-ramp from Union Cross Road.
View of the back of I-74 and US 311 trailblazers along Ridgewood Road at its interchange with I-74.
View of East I-74 and South US 311 trailblazers from on-ramp from West I-74 to Ridgewood Road in Forsyth County.
Photos from after the new I-74 Signage was put in place in 2014:
New I-74 East/US 311 overhead signage approaching interchange on I-40 East in Forsyth County, Photo courtesy of Jason Ilyes.
Seen in the distance in this NCDOT traffic camera along I-40 East a 1/2 mile from the I-74 interchange is the I-74 shield in the new exit sign for I-74 East/US 311 South. (8/15/14)
US 311 intersection with High Point Road (Old US 311)
Sign assemblies at US 311 South On-ramp at High Point Road
A closer look at the US 311 signs at the High Point Road exit
View of US 311 to the West at High Point Road bridge.
View East of US 311 South from same location showing new pavement put down during the Summer of 2002.
Photos taken of sign construction in the Summer of 2008:
This shows posts being installed for future I-74/US 311 signage (next to the US 311 sign) to be put on a green sign, now standard NCDOT practice for multiple route highways, and a new exit sign for High Point Road which will have I-74 exit numbers. (7/20/08)
Here's a closer view of the posts for the new High Point Rd exit sign set right behind the existing sign. Also notice the exit gore sign in the background the metal posts have been removed for most of them, instead they are being placed on temporary wood posts. (7/20/08)
Photos taken of sign construction in the November and December 2008:
NCDOT replacing the exit signs along US 311. The first exit is for High Point Road, now Exit 63 (12/14/08)
Here was the first Future I-74 sign going westbound after the NC 66 exit, notice the I-74 shield is similar to ones put up for I-295 in Fayetteville and not the I-73/74 segment near Ellerbe. This is to be replaced by the summer of 2014. (12/14/08)
The next exit is for High Point Road (Old US 311), Number 60. (11/23/08)
This photo shows the numbered exit sign and gore sign for High Point Road. (11/23/08).
Signage for the next exit westbound, Exit 59, used to access the now closed Dell plant, Union Cross Road. (11/23/08)
Here's the entrance ramp for Exit 59. Widened to two lanes in expectation of Dell plant traffic. (11/23/08)
Mile marker for I-74 East Mile 58 between the Union Cross and High Point Road interchanges. Installed two years before I-74 was actually signed. (7/15/12)
The last exit going westbound is for Ridgewood Road, Exit 56. (12/14/08)
As the sign after the Ridgewood Road exit sign indicated, the ramp is just inside the Winston-Salem city limits. (12/14/08)
The old sign for the I-40 East Exit can be seen beyond the on-ramp to Ridgewood Road. (11/23/08)
Here's posts for an additional Future I-74/North US 311 sign after the Ridgewood Road exit, put up in 2008. The posts were in the same condition in the summer of 2012. (9/18/09)
The last exit westbound, though the signs do not have numbers, the I-40 East exit gore sign indicates it is numbered 55. I-74 traffic is supposed to follow I-40 West/US 311 North to the US 52 freeway. (9/18/09)
The first exit eastbound for Segment 5 is for Ridgewood Road, the first Future I-74/South US 311 sign can be seen in the background. These are to be replaced by summer 2014. (12/14/08)
Here's a closer look at the first eastbound Future I-74 sign, NCDOT indicating it was not an interstate with the nonofficial 74 shield. (12/14/08)
A closer look at the Future I-74 signage shortly after installation in the fall of 2008. Notice the distance of the sign from the roadway and the width of the shoulders, though not up to interstate standards, NCDOT got permission to sign I-74 in 2014 with the promise of an upgrade in the near future. (12/14/08)
The last exit sign going eastbound in Forsyth County is for NC 66. (12/14/08)
The exit signs for the only exit on this segment in Guilford County, for Business 311, didn't change, just the exit number to 65. However, a tornado in March 2010 blew the overhead signs down.15 (4/11/10)
The right-hand sign above was replaced on May 26, 2010 as shown here on one of the City of High Point's traffic camera's (Number 38), unfortunately a reverse angle, but based on information from Bill Travers, the sign had been changed, dropping Business 311 to just read North Main Street, High Point, Downtown.13 No sign was added on the left side, until new signs were put up reading East I-74 South US 311, Asheboro later in the year.7 The small sign facing the camera is the last Future I-74 Corridor sign left on this segment.(5/26/10)