I-74 is to be routed from the end of the Rockingham-Hamlet Bypass to the Laurinburg Bypass along the current US 74 highway corridor. This roadway is presently a four-lane divided expressway with intersections that include stoplights in the town of Laurel Hill. On September 28, 2006 NCDOT officials held a meeting for the Laurel Hill community at which was discussed two options for building I-74 through that town. One option would be simply to upgrade the current highway to an interstate by the closing of certain side streets and possibly replacing one of the stop-lighted intersections with an interchange. The other option was to build a bypass around the town which would start out slightly north of Laurel Hill then cross over existing US 74 to the south before returning to the existing highway, the remainder of which would be upgraded to interstate standards. About 100 residents attended the hearing. The consensus from the meeting was that the first option would be cheaper, and quicker to build (about 7 years) but limit access to businesses, the other would maintain business access but probably cost more and take longer to complete, probably about 10 years.1 The NCDOT Project to upgrade the roadway (No. I-3801) was listed as Unfunded from 1999 through the 2009-2015 STIP.2 When the new revised STIP process started in 2011, the project was no longer listed because of its unfunded categorization.3 The 2009 cost estimates were $18.4 million for Right-of-Way acquisition and $60.4 million for construction, undoubtedly to increase before the project is finally funded. Future I-74 corridor signs first appeared on this stretch of US 74 in 2000 (see photo below).
NEW FUNDING FOUND IN 2015, TAKEN AWAY
IN 2017, PUT BACK IN 2022
In November 2015, NC Governor Pat McCrory announced that new budget guidelines, including the stopping of future transfers from the transportation budget to the general fund, would create increased funding for NCDOT highway projects. NCDOT released a list of new projects that would be funded with the additional revenue, if approved by the Board of Transportation in the 2016-2025 STIP, as well as designating funds to specific projects like completing the I-74 Segment of the Winston-Salem Beltway (see I-74 Segment 4). According to this list, a new STIP project that would upgrade US 74 to Interstate Standards from the Rockingham Bypass to the currently signed section of I-74 in Robeson County, including the Laurinburg Bypass would start in 2022.4 The Board approved the funding at their January 2016 meeting and the revised STIP document now lists Project I-5899, with the upgrade of US 74 from the Rockingham Bypass to the Laurinburg Bypass, as the first part of the project. It will be a design-build contract with an estimated cost of $86.9 million and a completion date of 2025.5 However, when the new Draft NCDOT 2017-2027 STIP was released in January 2017, Project I-5899 was no longer part of the document, in its place was simply an entry for a Feasibility Study (No. FS-1508A) for the upgrading of US 74 in Richmond, Scotland and Robeson Counties to Interstate Standards for the 23.4 miles from the eastern end of the Rockingham Bypass to the start of I-74 in Robeson County.6 The same status with the project was in the Final STIP document released in August 2017 and in the December 2017 revised STIP, funding is only still listed for a Feasibility Study in progress.7 The feasibility study was released in October 2017. It recommended 1 of 2 final alternative alignments, a simpler upgrade of existing US 74 totaling 23.95 miles or one with a southern bypass of Laurel Hill, totaling 24.11 miles.8 Another alignment, which would have built a bypass to the north of Laurel Hill was rejected due to environmental concerns. The study broke the proposed alignments into 10 sections, A to K, a description of each is in the table below:
The Laurinburg Segment also features 3 possible options of what to do with the close (0.4 mile) spacing between the US 15/401 and Business 15/401 interchanges, relocating the ramps for both exits, removing the ramps for the US 15/401 exit, or removing the ramps at Business 15/401. The first option is assumed for cost estimates. Depending on the Laurel Hill option chosen, either 3 or five interchanges would be built between the end of the Rockingham Bypass and Laurinburg Bypass. For Alternative 1 these would be at Old Hundred Road/Corbitt Road, Morgan Street/St. John's Road in Laurel Hill, and Armstrong Road. For Alternative 2 these would be at Old Hundred Road/Corbitt Road, Flyover ramp at Fred Carter Road at start of Bypass, Morgan Street/St. John's Road, and interchange at Ida Mill Road/Spring Mill Road (at other end of Bypass) in Laurel Hill, and Armstrong Road. The costs of the 2 alternatives are virtually identical, $310.6 million vs. $311.4 million, as seen in the table below.
These are the proposed alignments around Laurel Hill:
August 2018, NCDOT, as part of its 2020-2029 STIP process, announced
certain regional impact projects in each NCDOT division would now be
funded. Among the projects (I-6055) in Division 8 was the upgrading of
US 74 to Interstate Standards from Hamlet (the end of the US 74
Rockingham Bypass) to Laurinburg.9 The start of work,
according to the Draft STIP released in January 2019, was set for
2029. However, this was pushed back in the final STIP released in
August 2019 to After 2029. Right-of-Way purchases, however, were
planned to start in 2027. The Revised Draft 2023-2032 STIP released in
August 2022 finalized the start of construction to be 2030, after the
initial STIP released in May had removed funding for the project
entirely. The final STIP released in June 2023 moved the construction
date to 2031, with Right-of-Way purchases to start in 2028. The
project, according to the final STIP document, will cost, for both
construction and right of way purchasing, $223.7 million.10
In the summer of 2023 NCDOT applied for a federal Multimodal Projects
Discretionary Grant (MPDG) to help fund the upgrade of U.S. 74 to I-74
between the Rockingham and Laurinburg bypasses. NCDOT asked the
Scotland County Commission and Rockingham City Council to write
letters to USDOT in support of the application, and both bodies did
so. The USDOT grant program is expected to award about $5.5 billion in
grants for both federal FY 2023 and FY 2024. According to NCDOT
Division 8, if the grant is awarded it would accelerate the start of
the upgrade project.11
74 East through Laurel Hill to the start of the Laurinburg Bypass
on this video from Tarheel Traveler made in June 2022.
Two New Photos sent in by Napoleon Reese, February 2016
View of traffic heading east along current US 74 in Scotland County.
Traffic along current US 74 near city of Laurel Hill.
One of the I-74 Corridor Signs placed along US 74 between Hamlet and Laurinburg. Photo courtesy of Adam Prince
If anyone has any other photos to share from this segment feel free to send me an E-mail.