[NCDOT released sign plans for the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass Project on August 20, 2019. Jump to the Sign Plan Images.]
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 will be routed from an upgraded US 220 onto a bypass of Rockingham which is to be constructed during phase two. The first phase is 3.7 miles of the total project length of 10.5 miles, US 220 south of Ellerbe was upgraded to interstate standards along with new frontage roads on either side to allow access to current businesses. This section includes a new exit (23) at Dockery and Haywood Cemetery Roads. The completion date was April 9, 2018, delayed a month from March 2018 but at the end of April 2018 the work was listed as 94.4% complete (signifying the reason for the opening delay, the anticipated progress was 100%).1 At that time the route could have been open, but there were no reports about the work being completed by NCDOT or local media.Traffic is at least using the completed freeway lanes north from the Haywood Road exit, which is open according to Google Maps. On or before June 25, 2018 NCDOT removed the project from its project listings, indicating work on Phase 1 has been completed.2 In response to an e-mail sent to the NCDOT division overseeing the project on July 10, an NCDOT spokesman told Site contributor Strider that while there was still work to be done, all the lanes were open and traffic was using the final configuration along the new route.3 NCDOT sent a letter to the Raleigh office of the FHWA on August 1, 2018 asking that the upgraded US 220 between the former end of I-73/74 in Ellerbe to US 220 about 1/4 mile south of the interchange with Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road, a total of 2.91 miles, be added to the Interstate System. The FHWA approved the request on September 27, 2018.4 Work was confirmed complete by a trip along the route by site contributer Ben Thurkill in September, his photos are below.
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.5 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.6
Remainder of Bypass Work
Accelerated 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 2026.8 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 2025.9 It would have include an interchange at Blewitt Falls Rd (Exit 17) and Cartledge Creek Rd (Exit 20), the US 74 interchange (Exit 15) would include a ramp to East Business 74 as well as to West US 74.7 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 2027.10 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 STIP whose formal approval came in August. Right of way work would continue while actual construction would start in 2026 continuing at least through 2028, the construction cost for R-3421A being $35.1 million and for R-3421B $37.3 million.11 In August 2018, NCDOT announced, as part of its 2020-2029 STIP development process, that the contract to build the Bypass was to be included in the funded projects for Region 8. At that time it was thought construction most likely would start at the end of the period, 2028 or 2029.12 However, in December 2018, NCDOT added the R-3421A and B Bypass projects to its tentative list of lettings for October 2019. According to the Final STIP released in September 2019, the project will cost $278 million (including the previously built Section C), with the state contributing $100 million in "Build NC Bonds" to be paid off between 2020 and 2034, will start in early 2020 and be completed in 2023.13 In April 2019, the project let date was moved from October to December 2019, however in July 2019, it was moved back to October 15, 2019.14 When project plans were released (see below) in August 2019, 8 weeks prior to the letting date, there was no longer an interchange included for Blewitt Falls Rd, only Cartledge Creek Road, perhaps the Blewitt Falls exit was seen as too close to the US 74/Business 74 exit. The contract was awarded to the firm of Vecellio & Grogan, Inc. of Beckley, WV with a bid of $146,176,682.77 on October 17, 2019.15 Work start November 25, 2019 and of March 31, 2021 was nearly 1/4 (24.5%) complete.16 In the spring of 2020 work was started to clear the future interchange area along US 74 east of Rockingham, see photos below.17 The anticipated completion date is now April 29, 2024, later than the original date in the fall of 2023.18
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.19 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).20 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.21 Several more public hearings have been held since to keep local citizens updated.
US 220 North approaching future I-73/I-74 interchange: Just South of Harrington Road
Photo taken in January 2021 by Tracy Hamm:
Area now nearly cleared and graded for future I-73/I-74 exit from US 74 West approaching the current Business 74 exit.
Photos taken in May 2020 by Tracy Hamm:
View of area being cleared and graded for future I-73/I-74 exit from US 74 West approaching the current Business 74 exit.
Closer view or early work for the future I-73/I-74 exit at the ramp to Business 74.
Photo taken in April 2020 by Tracy Hamm:
Area of future I-73/I-74 interchange being cleared as seen from US 74.
Photos taken heading south on June 17, 2018 by J. Austin Carter:
South I-73 mile marker at start of Rockingham Bypass segment, followed by South I-73/US 220, East I-74 reassurance marker.
View southbound from hill just prior to 1 Mile advance sign for Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road exit from where you can see the exit itself.
Overhead gantry with ramp signage for Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road exit and 1-Mile advance sign for US 220 South, the current end of I-73 South (and temporary end of this segment of I-74 East.
The overhead 1/2 mile advance sign for South US 220, the bracket on the right is either for a right lane ending advisory sign or speed advisory sign seen on the next sign.
The last South I-73/US 220, East I-74 reassurance marker just prior to the I-73 Mile 23 post.
Overhead sign at South US 220 exit ramp. Speed limit 45 advisory sign was added this past spring to reduce further truck rollover incidents caused by high speeds around sharp curve on ramp carrying traffic to South at end of freeway (see photo taken last September, below).
View of graded roadway to become part of the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass when construction begins in the spring of 2020.
First overhead sign with I-73 North and I-74 West on US 220 North approaching future interchange with the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass.
View of US 220 North at future split of ramps to the I-73 South/I-74 East Rockingham Bypass on the left and the open ramp to join I-73 North/I-74 West.
1-Mile advance sign for now open Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road exit on US 220 North ramp to I-73 North/ I-74 West in Richmond County. The exit only arrow is over the correct lane. The far right lane ends at the merge with the future Bypass lanes before the exit.
First set of reassurance markers for I-73 North and I-74 West after US 220 North ramp merge. The shield set up is different from markers further north which have the interstate shields on the same post.
Overhead signage at now open Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road exit on I-73 North/I-74 West.
Trailblazers at on-ramp to I-73 South/I-74 East/US 220 South at on-ramp from Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road.
1-Mile advance sign for US 220 Ellerbe exit. The Business banner is an error, US 220 without the banner is still signed on the remaining exit signs (1/2 mile advance seen in the distance) and there is no reference to Business US 220 on the signs at the end of the exit ramp.
Heading southbound now, the empty gantry for what will be the 1-Mile Advance sign for the split of US 220 South from I-73/I-74 once the rest of the Bypass is completed.
The last set of I-73 South/I-74 West reassurance markers just before the I-73 South Mile 23 marker.
US 220 South sign on gantry that will hold the future I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass/US 220 South exit signage.
End I-73 and I-74 signs are placed at the start of the future US 220 South ramp. These signs will probably be here another 10 years.
View from the US 220 South ramp bridge over the future I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass lanes showing preliminary grading. Future ramp from US 220 North to the Bypass seen in the distance.
Looking the other way from the US 220 ramp bridge shows grading for the future Bypass proceeding a short distance further to the south.
It appears not everyone is familiar with the new US 220 South ramp. This truck overturned while apparently going too fast on the curve prior to the bridge over the future I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass lanes.
Earlier photos taken on March 13, 2018 by Charles M. Kunz:
Photo looking north at future Dockery Rd/Haywood Cemetery Rd exit on Future I-73 North/I-74 West showing ramp near completion. Exit is now open as of June 2018.
Photos taken on February 3, 2018 by AARoads Forum member Thing 342:
View heading north on US 220 using future frontage road along side future lanes of I-73 North and I-74 West still under construction with VMS sign in place.
Looking north on future frontage roads toward under construction interchange with Haywood Cemetery Road. Traffic transfers to new I-73/I-74 lanes just before exit.
New overhead signage with exit sign for Dockery Road/Haywood Cemetery Road covered over until ramp is completed. The I-73 and I-74 shields are uncovered with the freeway completed north to Ellerbe, despite the routes not officially extended to the segment as of yet.
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)
The sign plans published by NCDOT on August 20, 2019 indicate that I-73 will end at the southern end of the Bypass, and not continue along with I-74 along the US 74 Rockingham Bypass until any construction occurs in South Carolina. There have also been changes to the sign plans since the last set was published in January 2014:
Plan for Arrow-per-Lane sign at current end of I-73/I-74 at US 220.
Notice that previous plan for Future Exit 22 Sign showed that US 220 will keep its current alignment, but had Myrtle Beach and that Wilmington as control cities for I-73/I-74. (plan dated 12/21/13):
New sign plan for US 220 North at I-73/I-74 interchange.
Previous (2014) sign plan for I-73/I-74 exit on US 220 North.
Sign plan for only exit on the Bypass, Cartledge Creek Road.
The sign plans for the US 74 East Exit 306 showing I-73 ending, for now, at the Bypass.
Sign plan for split of I-73/I-74 North/West and US 74 West at the I-73/I-74 Bypass, showing future I-73 exit number.
Sign plan for Business 74 exit at southern end of Bypass showing future message for the inclusion of I-73 and that the control city for I-74/US 74 East is Lumberton.
The exit signs at the western end of Business 74 will have their own exit numbers, appropriately being 1A and 1B (there are no other exits). There will be a future overlay panel made for Exit 1A adding South I-73.
Plan showing future location of End I-73 sign just before the bridge crossing Business 74.