I-74 continues from the original US 311 freeway onto more recently completed freeways from south of I-85 (Exit 75) to US 220, now I-73 near the town of Randleman. When this specific route was chosen in 1997 it disappointed many citizens and government officials in the area since the route cuts a 1000 foot wide path directly through the city of Sophia before meeting US 220. Despite many objections, NCDOT chose this route, designated Corridor C, rather than the Corridor AA route preferred by the public at June 1997 hearings, because it cost $7 million less, avoided a complicated interchange with US 220 (I-73), and would send the least amount of pollution to the future Randleman Reservoir, preventing potential environmental problems.1,2
The project was listed in the 2009-2015 NCDOT STIP as Number R-2606.3 Right-of-Way acquisition started on the western part of the route in 2003, with a total cost projected at $17.5 million. Construction on the first section, $28.5 million of the total construction cost estimated at $177 million, started on May 29, 2007.4 This section featured many bridges and the building of an interchange at Cedar Square Road (Exit 79) which would be the temporary end of I-74 while the remaining segment was still under construction. When completed in 2008, US 311 was temporarily routed west along Cedar Square Road for 1/2 mile back to its original alignment.
The US 311 route from there westward (northward) was to be re-designated US 311 Business, but in the Spring of 2009 High Point officials asked that NCDOT remove the designation where it existed in High Point, thus only a state secondary route now exists along Main Street north of Glenola (see photo in Section 6).5 After the freeway was opened in November 2010, workers removed all the US 311 signs to the north along its now former route.6 In 2018, NCDOT announced, with the approval of High Point city officials, their intent to truncate US 311 south of Winston-Salem to decrease motorist confusion of having 2 routes with different directions. Signage would be removed by the end of 2018.7 On May 21, 2018 the NCDOT application to truncate US 311 was approved by AASHTO's Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering at their meeting in Franklin, Tennessee.8 Despite the promise to remove the signs by the end of 2018, US 311 signs still existed in Guilford County into 2021. During the spring US 311 shields finally were removed from overhead signs, along the freeway, and at exit ramps. However, US 311 still is signed as of August 2021 in Randolph County (see photos below), due to those signs being under a different NCDOT Division jurisdiction (Division 8 vs. 7) and apparently no funds there, or knowledge of the decommissioning, to complete the work.
Both parts of this segment had been dubbed the "Missing Link" by the I-74 Piedmont Corridor Group (PCG), an organization of business people, transportation officials, and others lobbying to complete I-74. They created the term in 2003 to call attention to what they saw as NCDOT's too drawn-out segmented plan to complete this portion of the highway, long after many other sections of I-74 were then scheduled to be built. The PGC hoped to put enough pressure on NCDOT to move up its construction timetable for the entire section to match work starting on Segment 6 to the west. Starting both projects at once, supporters said, would be more efficient.9 This effort eventually paid off. While start of construction was delayed from October 2006 to May 2007, work on the first part, 5.3 miles from south of I-85 near Archdale to north of Spencer Road (SR 1929) in Glenola10, began at the same time as work was started on the remaining section of Segment 6.11 Also, whereas earlier plans called for the proposed letting for the next part of the highway, from Spencer Road to US 220 in Sophia, not to occur until after 2012 and be completed in two parts, the final part not to begin a couple years after that,12 the project instead got most of the funds borrowed under the Garvee Bond Program to expedite a design-build contract. The borrowed funds ($112 million) will be paid back out of the highway fund accounts through 2019.3 Work started on this 7.9 mile segment in October 200813 with the Barnhill Contracting Company responsible for the project. Construction was largely completed by the end of 2012, but due to the need for additional paving that has to wait for warmer weather the opening was held up until June 7, 2013.14 NCDOT officials had told the Winston-Salem Journal in April 2013 that they hoped to have the highway by Memorial Day15, they were about two weeks too early. While the route had originally been called the US 311 Bypass, NCDOT decided to keep that route on its original alignment east of where the new and old routes crossed near Sophia. For the last 2 miles the freeway is just signed as I-74, the only place it will be signed alone between Mt. Airy and Rockingham, see photos below.
A closer look at the northern part of the segment from the 2021-2022 State Transportation Map:
I-74 East, Exits 75 to 86 I-74 West, Exits 86 to 75
I-74 East at I-85: From Off-Ramp to I-85 North and South (August 2021)
I-74 West at Cedar Square Road: Using off-Ramp from westbound Cedar Square Road (August 2021)
I-74 East from Cedar Square Road: From Off-Ramp to Cedar Square Road (June 2021)
I-74 West in Randleman: Using on-ramp from I-73 North (August 2021)
US 311 shields still standing in Randolph County
North US 311 trailblazer still standing at former ramp from US 311 to I-74 West in Sophia.
South US 311 trailblazer at end of ramp from I-74 West.
North US 311 reassurance marker still standing after US 311 exit on I-74 West.
US 311 South still indicated on 1 mile advance sign for Sophia exit on I-74 East.
South US 311 reassurance marker still standing after on I-74 East just over the Randolph County line.
Properly signed route after crossing Guilford County line:
A now standalone East I-74 reassurance marker after the I-85 exit, compare to third photo in section below.
Photo of I-74/US 311 advance exit sign on I-85 South one mile prior to interchange. (8/1/12)
Photo of overhead signs at beginning of C/D ramps for I-74/US 311 on I-85 South. (8/1/12)
Here's the first pair of East I-74/South US 311 reassurance markers just beyond the Interstate 85 North on-ramp. (10/13/11)
Here's one of the mileage signs placed on this stretch of highway, just prior to the Tuttle Road bridge on I-74 East. (10/13/11)
Here's the one mile sign on I-74 East for the last exit, for now, Cedar Square Road, note 'All Traffic Exit' tab. (10/13/11)
NCDOT has place an 'End I-74' sign just prior to the temporary eastern end of the freeway at Cedar Square Road. (6/10/12)
View approaching the traffic barrels funneling vehicles onto the Cedar Square exit ramp, looking beyond toward Spencer Road in Oct. 2011. (10/13/11)
West I-74/North US 311 signs under blank poles at the future on-ramp to I-74 East heading east on Cedar Square Road. (10/13/11)
View from the Cedar Square Rd bridge of the I-74 roadbed heading east toward Spencer Road. This part of the freeway was paved under the contract for the next section (10/13/11)
West I-74/North US 311 signage at the on-ramp, current beginning of I-74 West on Cedar Square Road. (10/13/11)
I-85 exit signage on I-74 West approaching the curve before the Tuttle Road bridge in October 2011. (10/13/11)
I-85 exit signage on I-74 West approaching the off-ramp to I-85 North. (10/13/11)
I-74/US 311 exit signage on I-85 South C/D ramp in the late afternoon in Oct. 2011. (10/13/11)
Here's a photo of one of the exit signs for US 311 which leaves I-74 and ends along its original alignment at US 220. (6/30/13)
Here's another photo 2 miles down the road at the exit itself. (6/30/13)
Here are some opening preview photos along the path of I-74 taken by AARoads Forum Member MBHockey13 while jogging along the unopened highway on May 30 and 31, 2013.
View looking east at Mile Marker 82. Three miles east of Cedar Square Road, new pavement has received line markings. (5/30/13)
View of 2 Mile advance exit sign from US 311 South on I-74 East. It appears NCDOT wants to encourage drivers heading to Randleman to exit here, and not go all the way to US 220 (I-73) (the exit sign westbound does not include the city name). (5/30/13)
The view on I-74 East at Mile Marker 81 approaching the Banner Whitehead Rd bridge. (5/30/13)
View of newly place mileage sign on I-74 East beyond the Cedar Square Rd exit, the distance to Asheboro is 16 miles. (5/30/13)
Another view eastbound with sign confirming the speed limit on this section of I-74/US 311 is 65 MPH. (5/30/13)
View of the newly placed I-74 and US 311 reassurance markers just beyond the on-ramp from Cedar Square Rd. (5/30/13)
View westbound of the exit sign for Cedar Square Road. The 'All Traffic Exit' attached to the Cedar Square Rd exit sign on I-74 east had been removed. (5/30/13)
View looking eastbound along current US 311 at the new interchange with I-74. The signs indicating I-74 and US 311 North are still covered over, awaiting opening of the highway. (5/31/13)
View from the end of the eastbound I-74 off-ramp showing the sign directing traffic for US 311 to go left at the intersection. (5/31/13)
View eastbound at the exit ramp for the US 311 exit. Notice the use of another 'wimpy' exit number on the gore sign. (5/31/13)
View westbound of the exit sign for the US 311 exit. NCDOT apparently thinks traffic heading to Randleman will stay on I-73 North, so no control city is used. (5/31/13)
View eastbound of stand alone I-74 East shield. This is the first section of I-74 since Mount Airy that does not carry another route designation. (5/31/13)
View eastbound of the first exit sign for I-73/US 220. The sign is just after the US 311 exit, with the sign for I-74 East beyond. (5/31/13)
View eastbound looking under the US 311 and adjacent railroad bridge at the US 311 interchange. (5/31/13)
View west from US 311 bridge showing completed I-74 freeway and the interchange on and off-ramps. (5/31/13)
View of the exit ramp to eastbound I-74 from US 311, signs are covered over going north on US 311. (5/31/13)