Where: US 74 from NC 41 south of Lumberton, Robeson County to US 76 west of Whiteville, Columbus County
Length: 22.7 Miles
Needed: Upgrade to Interstate Standards
Current Highway signed as:
Interstate Upgrade Work to Start: After 2033
I-74 east of Lumberton is to use the existing US 74 highway southeast to the US 76 interchange east of Whiteville. Currently, US 74 from NC 41 south to US 76 is a four-lane divided highway. A project to widen the road was completed in 1999 but did not include removing most of the existing highway intersections.1 For I-74 to be signed on this road the current highway would need to be upgraded to Interstate standards by replacing the remaining intersections with bridges and/or interchanges. In September 2019, NCDOT added such a project to its FY 2020-2029 STIP, however, the project became unfunded in the Draft 2024-2033 STIP released in June 2022, see details below.
NCDOT started upgrades to this segment as part of the 2005 Federal transportation legislation through which they received moneys to upgrade the intersection between NC 242 and US 74/NC 130 (shown below) to a grade-separated interchange.
Looking at the intersection of US 74/NC 130 and NC 242 as it existed prior to the new interchange being constructed, in July 2006.
NCDOT first held a workshop on July 11, 2006 to provide local citizens with information about the work and a companion project to upgrade the US 74/76 intersection with NC 211 near Bolton.5 Another meeting occurred on May 27, 2008. Right of way acquisition took place during 2009 with construction, delayed since 2006, starting in July 2010.6 NCDOT, as part of its 2006 press release, said it planned to upgrade US 74 to a 'fully controlled access route' aka freeway, between these two projects. This would imply that, for this segment, the upgrading of about 7 miles of US 74 between the end of the US 74/76 Whiteville Bypass and NC 242. The cost listed for the entire project, $6.8 million, and the project length (.83 miles), however would seem to be too low to include upgrading the rest of US 74 along with building the new interchange.7 There already is an interchange built to the east as part of the previous US 74 upgrade at the intersection with NC 410/US 74 Business/East NC 130 that could potentially serve as an interchange for I-74, cutting down on the project cost.
The project was let in July 2010 and construction started on August 30, 2010. The interchange opened in September 2012, though the project was not officially completed until December 31, 2012.2 Though originally without one, in the summer of 2013 an exit number, 228, based on I-74 mileage, was added to the exit signage.3 Here's a photo of the numbered exit signage from May 2014, thanks to Chris Curley:
Photo of the then newly numbered exit sign for new interchange with NC 242, May 2014.
In December 2008 NCDOT began a project (W-4704) to replace the US 74/Old Kingsdale Road (SR 2210) intersection, about 3 miles to the east of NC 41, with an interchange. Work was completed in the summer of 2010, see photos below. While this project was officially not related to I-74, only referred to as a 'Hazard Elimination', it added and additional five miles of the limited access freeway east of NC 41 with a speed limit upgrade to 70 MPH. This was the start of a seemingly piecemeal approach strategy by NCDOT of making US 74 interstate compatible by replacing the remaining 7 intersections between NC 41 and US 76 with interchanges (or closing some of them) gradually over the years as funds become available.8 Actions by NCDOT since then have corroborated this idea. NCDOT conducted a Feasibility Study about the costs of upgrading this segment (and part of the next, from NC 41 to the Union Cross Road exit on the US 74/76 Whiteville Bypass) to interstate standards, whose recommendations were published in May 2014.9 The study recommended building a 4-lane interstate standard freeway by eliminating the 6 remaining at-grade intersections replacing them either by grade separations or interchanges. The 24-mile study zone was separated into 9 Sections, A to I, with 4 of the sections having two alternate designs. The sections, alternative descriptions and anticipated costs from the report are below:
The Kingsdale reference for Section A is the building of an interchange for the already grade separate road. The remaining alternatives differ as to whether a grade separation or interchange should be built. Since 2014 it appears NCDOT has narrowed the list to include interchanges for most of the sections with alternatives. A project to replace the intersection of US 74 and old US 74 (SR 1574) at the southern part of this segment was started in March 2016. When this was completed in October 2017, US 74 became a limited access highway between the Whiteville Bypass at Exit 235 and NC 242 at Exit 228 with the speed limit of 70 MPH from US 76 extended 6 more miles north from Mile 231 to just prior to the Old Boardman Road intersection (see photo below), which is depicted in the map above. In the 2020-2029 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) document released in August 2019 there were three projects listed related to upgrading US 74 to freeway standards listed in the above table. A project that will upgrade the intersection at Old Boardman Road to an interchange was to start in 2025, but was later moved up and was let on April 20, 2021, work began nearly a month later on May 25 and as of February 7, 2023 was almost 2/3 complete at 64.4%. When this project is completed by the end of 2024, US 74 will be a freeway throughout Columbus County.10
In Robeson County, a project to replace the intersection between US 74 and Broadridge Road and create a Directional Crossover intersection further east, where only right-turns are allowed on the intersecting roadway with left lane only lanes added 1/4 mile in each direction for U-turns, with Creek Road (C204013) was awarded in November 2017 (accelerated from 2019). Work started on November 27, 2017 and was completed in November 2019, extending the freeway south from Lumberton an additional 2 miles (see photos below).11 The press release for the project also included text that said this project was part of a continuing process to upgrade US 74 to interstate standards, confirming the piecemeal approach, the intersection with Creek Road is to be replaced by a bridge as part of the interstate upgrade project currently to start after 2029.12 Plans released when this project was advertised for bids showed the I-74 exit number would be 219 and that a 70 mph speed limit will start westbound 1 mile before the exit (see below).13 Another project, scheduled now to start in April 2023, awarded on March 1, will replace the intersections of US 74 with NC 72 and NC 130, currently two intersections, into a combined single exit.14 A public hearing was held about this project in Orrum on December 3, 2018.15 Here is the sign plan for the future exit, shown to be Exit 223, and the overall sign plan for the interchange which will include new roundabouts on either side of US 74:
It was hoped that once this project was completed, all would be left to upgrade to a freeway would be about a 2 mile stretch south of the interchange with two intersections just north of the town of Boardman (Woodrow Road and VC Britt Road, SR 2245), plus possible reconstruction of at least one of the bridges over the Lumber River and others in the same area, to make the entire highway a freeway that could be then upgraded fairly easily to Interstate Standards. However, the NC 72/130 project is not closing the intersection to the north (west) with Creek Road as part of this project, that project is now not to start until 2027,14 leaving a 3 mile section still as expressway grade with a speed limit of 60 MPH starting at Mile 220. In the summer of 2012, NCDOT replaced the US 74 mileposts along this stretch from mile 214 (and continuing on the US-74/76 Whiteville Bypass and east of Delco, mile 271) with I-74 mile markers so as to negate any need to change exit numbers when I-74 is signed in the future.16
In the fall of 2019, future funding on the conversion of US 74 to Interstate Standards from NC 41 to US 76 (Project I-6011), see below, and the NC 72/NC 150 upgrade to interchange projects were suspended, along with I-74 related projects in Columbus County, due to NCDOT budget problems brought on, according to NCDOT by the success of a lawsuit against the agency for not paying for property along future highway alignments which could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars and fixing damages from many recent hurricanes. The legislature has said it plans to work with NCDOT to fix some of the money problems but it is not known if this will restore all the funding for the currently suspended projects.17 Moneys were found to restart the engineering work for the interchange projects in 2020, despite new resource problems caused by the loss of gas tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Drive" I-74 East from just beyond Lumberton to Whiteville, with this video from Tarheel Travels, made on June 27, 2022 (includes part of Segment 18).
Google Maps Street View images going west to east:
Photos from the NC 41 interchange from April 2022:
An unusual 2 Miles advance sign for a non-interstate exit on US 74 West approaching Lumberton.
The NC 41 exit sign approaching the start of I-74 West in Lumberton. Note the start of the interstate standard shoulder.
The NC 41 gore sign on US 74 West.
Though I-74 officially ends at NC 41, there's still a East I-74 trailblazer matching one for I-74/ US 74 West heading north. The End I-74 sign that was previously up at the end of the on-ramp is missing from the images from April 2022.
Photos from south of NC 41, taken also in April 2022:
Heading under the Kingsdale Road bridge, notice the interstate standard shoulders on both sides.
Photos of the completed Broadridge Road interchange from April 2022:
A 1 Mile advance sign for the Broadridge Road exit.
The Broadridge Road exit sign on US 74 East.
The gore sign for the Broadridge Road exit on US 74 West.
An East US 74 trailblazer approaching the on-ramp on Broadridge Road.
Trailblazers approaching the US 74 westbound ramps to and from Broadridge Road.
View from the Broadridge Road bridge shows the interstate standard highway between the exit ramps.
Photos from south of Broadridge Road, April 2022:
View of I-74 mileage Mile 220 marker on US 74 south of Broadridge Road and the return of narrow shoulders.
Reduced Speed Limit 60 Ahead advisory signs mark the end of the US 74 freeway near Mile 221 on US 74 East.
Approaching the intersection with Creek Road on US 74 East. Originally this was to be closed as part of the construction of the NC 72/NC 130 interchange project (see map below), however this work was not included when the plans were released in January 2023.
West NC 72 trailblazer approaching intersection on US 74 East.
NC 130 trailblazers approaching next intersection on US 74 East, both will be combined into 1 interchange. Work to start by the spring of 2023.
The West NC 130 trailblazer approaching the intersection on US 74 West.
The other remaining intersection in Robeson County is this one with V.C. Britt Road just prior to the Lumber River.
An East I-74 trailblazer westbound, this new U-turn was provided to provide traffic access to Macedonia Church Road back across the bridge in Boardman, which is not accessible in this direction due to interchange construction.
The first of the three bridges over the Lumber River prior to entering Columbus County. Though perhaps not interstate standard, they may be able to receive a waiver to become I-74.
The third of the bridges over the Lumber River, with near interstate standard right shoulder.
The first of the bridges over the Lumber River headed west, with newly constructed interstate width right shoulder ending just prior.
Pair of Speed Limit 70 signs mark the resumption of the US 74 freeway in Columbus County.
The 3/4 Mile advance sign for the NC 242 exit on US 74 East.
The leaning gore sign for the NC 242 exit on US 74 East.
The destinations approaching the eastbound US 74 ramp on NC 242 South.
The destination sign for the ramp to US 74 (Future I-74) West.
The bridge view looking east along US 74 showing upgraded highway in vicinity of NC 242.
The Future I-74 Corridor sign on US 74 East after the NC 242 exit.
View westbound of the bridge carrying Business US 74. Completion of this bridge allowed the 70 mph speed limit to continue from US 76 to just before Boardman.
The 1 Mile advance sign for the NC 410/Business 74/East NC 130 exit on US 74 East.
The exit sign for the NC 410/Business 74/East NC 130 exit on US 74 East.
The gore sign for the NC 410/Business 74/East NC 130 exit, and the resumption of interstate standard shoulders.
The East US 74 trailblazer approaching the ramp carrying NC 130 East and the beginning of Business 74.
Approaching the merge of US 74 East with US 76 East near Whiteville.
Creating the Boardman interchange,
Taken by David Gallo, December 23, 2022 on US 74 East:
Approaching the interchange construction zone showing completion of girders for bridge across US 74.
Getting closet to the interchange, the eastbound lanes have been recently paved.
The open off-ramp to Old Boardman Road in this direction, landscape being graded by the still to open bridge.
Approaching the bridge over the US 74 lanes.
Closeup of the construction crane used to complete work on the bridge across US 74.
Approaching the bridge showing most of the structure completed with deck work proceeding.
Taken by Tracy Hamm in October 2022:
Future off-ramp from US 74 East to Old Boardman Road now paved.
The girders for the bridge section over US 74 East have been placed.
Taken by David Gallo in September 2022:
Approaching the construction zone in September 2022 headed east.
Bridge construction continues along the westbound lanes.
A closer look at the future Boardman interchange bridge.
The construction along US 74/NC 130 East.
Previous photos taken in March and April 2022 by David Gallo and Tracy Hamm:
Approaching the Boardman interchange construction zone on US 74/NC 130 West in April 2022.
Construction seen on new Boardman interchange bridge along US 74 East.
A closer look at the construction equipment placing soil at site of future bridge over US 74/NC 130 (Future I-74).
Support structures being placed for future US 74 bridge along the east side of the roadway, behind port-a-potty placed in median.
Support for future bridge still stands alone in the median of US 74 / NC 130 in April 2022.
A closer look westbound at the support for future bridge approaching the Old Boardman Road intersection.
US 74/NC 130 East traffic approaching Old Boardman Road interchange construction site in March 2022.
A temporary work zone speed limit sign approaching the bridge over the Lumber River and Columbus County line.
US 74 East traffic approaching future Boardman interchange, sign directing traffic to Macedonia Church Road which currently intersects on the right.
Approaching the future Boardman exit ramp.
A closer view of the future ramp from US 74 (Future I-74) East.
US 74 East traffic approaching site of future Old Boardman Road bridge.
A closer look at the embankment being built for the future Old Boardman Road bridge over US 74 (Future I-74).
US 74 West traffic approaching Old Boardman Road at site of future Old Boardman Road bridge.
Portable Work Speed Limit sign on US 74 West approaching the Boardman interchange work zone.
Further along US 74 West approaching the work zone, smoke from fire in construction area is limiting visibility on the road.
Crane seen in the distance beyond the Old Boardman Road intersection.
Crane behind supports being constructed in US 74 median for future Boardman interchange bridge.
Closeup of future bridge being constructed in US 74 median.
View of crane constructing bridge supports from Old Boardman Road approaching US 74 West.
Current entrance to US 74 West from Old Boardman Road.
View of current intersection ramp to Old Boardman Road from US 74 West.
Courtesy of timmer63 in November 2018:
Newly paved future exit ramp to Broadridge Road from US 74 East.
A closer view of the newly paved exit ramp to Broadridge Road.
View from US 74 East of construction zone around new interchange for Broadridge Road earlier in the month prior to paving of exit ramp.
Closer look at mound being built for bridge construction alongside US 74 West for Broadridge Road interchange.
Prior to paving future ramp to Broadridge Road blocked off from US 74 traffic.
Portable VMS tells drivers the current intersection with Broadridge Road is closed.
Another view of construction progress for the new interchange from US 74 East. The center bridge support awaits the steel support structure.
In January 2019, NCDOT finally posted a funded project for upgrading US 74 between NC 41 and US 76 to an interstate. The Project, I-6011, appeared in the 2020-2029 Draft STIP document among those for Division 8. In the final STIP released in September 2019, Right-of-Way purchasing along the corridor is to start in 2027 (was 2025 in the Draft), however construction, partly financed by bonds, is not planned to start until after 2029. Given that most of the intersection upgrades will have happened by then, the total cost for this project is fairly low, $64.5 million, and thus should not take a long time to complete.19 This proved to be too optimistic. In the Draft 2024-2033 STIP released in June 2022 the project was no labeled as 'Unfunded' meaning any work to upgrade this segment to interstate standards will not take place now until after 2033. A possible reason for this change, the new STIP estimates the cost of the upgrade now as $170 million or about $740,000 per mile.20
I-74/US 74 East from NC 41: At On-Ramp from NC 41 North (June 2018)
US 74/NC 130 West at NC 242: Using On-Ramp from NC 242 North (January 2019)
US 74 West from US 76: Prior to US 76 West Off-Ramp (May 2019)
Here's a photo of the construction progress at Old Kingsdale Road in February 2009 taken from US 74 East. (2/7/09)
Here's the view looking west from a closed Old Kingsdale road going west toward US 74. (2/8/09)
Here's what the construction area looked like in May 2009. Photos courtesy of James Mast:
Looking at the grading for the bridge along US 74 West going the opposite direction. (May 2009)
Here's the same construction seen from West US 74, the first I-74 exit sign can be seen when driving through this project (May 2009). Construction was to be complete in November 2009, but the contract was not completed until April 2010.
This is what the bridge, nearly completed over US 74 looked like in November 2009. There were still orange barrels, barriers and construction equipment indicating the bridge work was not completed yet. This was confirmed by the Construction Progress Report which indicated it was 84% complete at the time of this photo. (11/15/09)
The view from US 74 West shows that some more paving, at least, needs to be done on the bridge, though guardrails have been installed. (11/15/09)
Here is the path of US 74 for this segment, the circles on the map represent projects to close cross-street intersections and/or interchanges to be built:
Map from NCDOT, courtesy of Nick Zachetti, showing completed and planned construction along US 74 between Lumberton and Whiteville. (New 12/15/22)
Tour I-74's future and current route along US 74 in Columbus and Robeson Counties on This Video courtesy of J. Austin Carter, from January 2013.