NC 74 shield image from Shields Up!   I-74 NC shield image from Shields Up!

Winston-Salem Northern Beltway

NC 452 shield image from Shields Up!   I-274 NC shield image from Shields Up!

The Winston-Salem Northern Beltway will be a 35 Mile 3/4 Loop highway that will start at I-74 on the southeast side of Winston-Salem travel north and west to US 52 then back south and west to I-40, then east to US 158 near Clemmons. The Beltway is being built in sections and is now planned not to be completed until the 2030s. Here was an NCDOT map of the route and the planned construction dates from July 2019, at the time both sections had been funded for construction. The dates for the western section now have changed in the 2024-2033 Final State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) as of June 2023 mostly due to budget related issues at NCDOT, the first segment of the western section is now not due to start construction until 2030:

Winston-Salem Journal map from NCDOT/Greensboro Planning Unit of Winston-Salem Beltway progress, July 2019

The Beltway is split into Eastern and Western Sections. Construction so far has only been on the eastern section. Opened parts of this section are currently signed as NC 74 (the first from US 421/Salem Parkway to US 158 in early September 2020, the second from US 158 to US 311 in December 2020, the third from US 311 to NC 66/University Parkway on November 7, 2022, and the fourth from NC 66 to US 52 on November 19, 2023) until the Beltway is connected to current I-74. The remaining work on 2 separate contracts, one between US 421 and I-40, and the other I-40 to I-74 west of Union Cross Road, started construction in late 2022 and are to be complete by 2026. For more information, latest construction photos, and sign plans for this section, visit the I-74 Segment 4 page.


The building of a beltway around Winston-Salem has a long history. The highway was first proposed in 1965 but was not seriously planned until the early 1990's. The first hearings over choosing alternative paths for the route were held from 1992 to 1996.

Western Half of Beltway Construction Stopped by Lawsuit in 1999

Originally the western section was to be built first. All permits for the western half of the freeway, from US 52 to I-40, were approved and construction was set to start in 1999. However, in February 1999 a lawsuit was filed by 'Friends of Forsyth,' a citizens group that opposed construction of the highway, halting construction. Though the initial lawsuit was thrown out, subsequent court decisions delayed the start of construction until a judicial review of NCDOT's environmental impact study was completed. With the review complete, the combined eastern and western-half Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) report was released in September 2004 and public hearings on the report were held in November and December 2004.1

Support Builds for Constructing Eastern Half of Beltway, 2003-2008

While waiting for NCDOT to wrap up its work, supporters of speeding up construction of the Beltway and upgrading US 52 north of Winston-Salem to interstate status formed the 'I-74 Piedmont Corridor Group' in 2003 and enlisted the support of former Governor Jim Hunt to help lobby legislators and NCDOT board members to build the highway.2 In March 2003, the Winston-Salem Journal wrote an editorial encouraging NCDOT to build the eastern half of the Beltway (I-74) first, arguing that there was less opposition to this part of the highway and the increased traffic on US 52 since the completion of the I-74 connector from I-77 to US 52 was leading to increased traffic congestion and accidents in downtown Winston-Salem.3 The FHWA signed off on the final environmental impact plans in December 2006. NCDOT then announced in March 2005 that construction on the western half would be postponed to 2015 at the earliest.4 Money saved from the postponement would be used to construct the eastern half, I-74, which was listed in the 2009-2015 STIP as Project No. U-2579, and scheduled to start construction by 2009. However, in 2008 another lawsuit was filed regarding the accuracy of the environmental study done for the western portion.5 Since NCDOT had combined the west and east portions in the document sent to the FHWA, the lawsuit stopped any activity on the Eastern segment as well, even right- of-way acquisition.

New Construction Schedule set in 2009

While the new lawsuit was being settled, NCDOT moved forward on planning to build the eastern segment. According to the 2009-2015 STIP, about $224 million was to be used to acquire the right-of-way while about $450 million had been set aside for construction, a total of $702 million.6 This new total cost was substantially higher than that quoted in previous TlPs. The increased costs were due to a few years since the last cost estimate, higher material costs, and the agreement by NCDOT to build more bridges along the route to help aide local traffic, plus expenses for environmental mitigation.6 Construction was to start first on the 3.4 mile portion of the highway from US 158 (Reidsville Road) to US 421 (Business 40), the 2009 cost estimate was $165 million. The 3.1 mile section between Business 40 and I-40 would start next with a cost of $160 million. Work would then start on the 1.4 mile section between US 158 and US 311 at a cost of $52 million.7 The remaining segments were unfunded but officials at the time were confident moneys would be found to complete them after the original three segments were complete.8 A final alternative to what was originally called the Eastern Half extension south of Bus. 40 to US 311 was chosen in March 2005. Construction was to start on this 4.4-mile segment after the other segments were completed.9 The chosen alignment puts the location of the interchange between the Beltway (I-74) and US 311 to the east of the current US 311/I-40 interchange and between the Ridgewood and Union Cross Road exits.10 The decision by Dell to locate a new company facility in Winston-Salem helped impact the choice of alternatives for the one chosen (N2-S1) kept the Union Cross Road interchange open to access the industrial park where the Dell plant was built. Ironically, Dell decided to close the plant in 2009, before a final decision on the Beltway was made. The NCDOT Winston-Salem Northern Beltway website has Maps of the chosen alternative, along with a Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement document released in January 2007.4 The last lawsuits were finally dismissed on May 20, 2010 by Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder who said neither the Friends of Forsyth nor the NC Alliance for Transportation Reform could prove that the environmental studies performed for the FHWA were inadequate.11

Project Halted Again, This Time by NCDOT, in 2010

Before any of the work activity outlined above began in 2010, however, NCDOT committed to a reform process which included devising a new STIP process and a priority list for construction of the state's 21 beltway projects. Only the top eight projects on the list would go forward at the present time given limits in funding. When the list was produced in late July 2010 the Northern Beltway was listed last, 21st out of 21 projects. This meant not only that the project was not funded but that no work of any kind would happen until at least 2020, even work on obtaining the right-of-way, which affected citizens were promised would start in 2010.5 Citizens affected by the ruling vowed to fight it. They got NCDOT to change it's priority formula in 2011 allowing loop projects to be broken up and evaluated in segments. The good news was the Winston-Salem Beltway was moved up, the bad news was that it now ranked 13th, still not eligible for funding. The project again looked to be in limbo. NCDOT meanwhile appeared to be 'hedging its bet' where the next Segment of I-74 would start by placing I-74 mileposts and I-74 exit numbers along the US 311 freeway east of Winston-Salem in late 2010 starting at its interchange with I-40, not where the Beltway is planned to tie in. This could be useful if I-74 ended up being routed through downtown on US 52, or on an proposed extension on the US 311 freeway across I-40 and into Winston-Salem, though these proposals were never followed up.

NCDOT Puts Beltway Back on Priority Track in 2011

Outcry by citizens affected by the Beltway's path and threats of lawsuits by Winston-Salem and other cities with delayed loop projects in 2010 and 2011 forced the governor to intervene. In March 2011, under political pressure, the NCDOT Board of Transportation requested that its department staff conduct a limited segment analysis of ten Urban Loop projects, including Winston-Salem's. The loop projects were rated as to their needs and benefits. Each factor under Needs and Benefits was given a score. Those points were then added up and divided by the project's total cost. NCDOT then used the resulting numbers to rank the projects. Six projects, including Winston-Salem's, were then 'accelerated' into the state's TIP Plan using $400 million in Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, bonds.12 The new schedule for the Beltway started property acquisition in 2012 and started construction on the first segment from Business 40 to US 158 after the project was let in December 2014, including a bridge to carry I-74 over Business 40.13 In November 2016 NCDOT announced further acceleration of the Eastern Section project segments, with each segment getting advanced 2 to 3 years. From the NCDOT press release at the time, here was a table of the new construction schedule, see I-74 Segment 4 for additional details:14








Construction Let Date


Design-Build Let Date

Let date Acceleration

Eastern Section


US 421/B40

October 2020

April 2018

2+ years*

Eastern Section

US 311

Baux Mtn Rd

October 2021

February 2018

3+ years

Eastern Section

Baux Mtn Rd

NC 8

October 2021

February 2018

3+ years

Eastern Section

NC 8

University Pkwy

June 2022

February 2018

3+ years

Western Section

University Pkwy

US 52

June 2022

July 2018

4 years

The Western Section had been designated NC 452 by NCDOT, but they received permission from AASHTO to designate it also as Future I-274 on May 20, 2019 and included this map of the future interstate, totaling 16.8 miles, in their application, it includes the segment between I-40 and US 158.15

NCDOT map of future I-274 submitted to AASHTO as part of application in October 2018

Construction was to start on the western section in 2023. The 2020-2029 STIP showed funding available to build the remaining Western Section segments, starting with the US 52 (Future I-74) interchange and the segment from just south of the US 52 interchange to NC 67. In 2026 construction work was to start from NC 67 to SR 1348 (Meadowlark Drive/Robinhood Road) while works was to start from SR 1348 to US 421, including remaining work on the interchange with US 421 not already constructed as part of the US 52 interchange project, in 2027. The remainder of the western section, though not fully funded yet, was to start construction in 2029.16 In the fall of 2019, however, all the Western Section projects showed up on NCDOT's Project Suspension List created due to new budget constraints caused by a court decision about the MAP Act, a regulation that allowed the state to pay for properties in the way of future highway projects. The court decided that the Act was illegal and that the agency owed property owners millions of dollars due to their placing of homes in future highway project corridors without means for the owners to get just compensation. This was complicated by moneys needed to be spent to fix highways damaged by hurricanes in the last few years. In December 2019, the contract for the US 52 to NC 67 segment was taken off the suspension list with preliminary engineering to restart in January 2020. 

New Delays in 2023

In June 2023 the Final 2024-2033 STIP was approved by the NCDOT Board of Directors and it was bad news for the Western Section.17 The US 52 to NC 67 segment was now the only one funded that would take place within the timeframe of the new STIP with right-of-way purchases not to start until 2028 and construction in 2030. The project would be extended it include part of the next section to the interchange with Reynolda Road. Only preliminary engineering would be funded for the next two sections from Reynolda Road to Robinhood Road and Robinhood to US 421, including the US 421 interchange. The last two segments, US 421 to I-40 and I-40 to US 158 are not funded at all, work cannot start on them until after 2033. Meanwhile, all these delays, have meant that the estimated cost for the entire Beltway has risen from $500 million in the early 2000s to around $1 billion in 2014 to around $1.2 billion just for the eastern section in 2023.18

For the latest official information on the Beltway, go to NCDOT's Winston-Salem Northern Beltway project page.


(1) NCDOT. 2004. Winston-Salem Northern Beltway Supplemental Final EIS-Project R-2247, Supplemental Draft EIS- Projects U-2579 and U-2579-A. September. pp. 1-10-1-12. (Available at NCDOT's Winston Salem Northern Beltway page).

(2) Biesecker, Michael. 2002. "Benefits of a Completed I-74 Outlined; Building Highway will Help Piedmont's Economy, Hunt Says."Winston-Salem Journal. October 23. (downloaded from

(3) Young, Wesley. 2014. Map in "Roads Get Green Light." Winston-Salem Journal. December 5. (downloaded from, 12/12/14).

(4) Sparks, Jim and David Ingram. 2005. "Budget Woes Putting Damper on Highway Projects." Winston-Salem Journal. (downloaded from, 3/21/05).

(5) Young, Wesley. 2009. "Stuck in Limbo: Beltway Inaction Stymies Local Property Owners." Winston-Salem Journal. September 4. (downloaded from stymies-local-property-owners/news/ September 7).

(6) NCDOT. June 2008. State Transportation Improvement Program, 2009-2015, Division 9, p. 9-20.

(7) Sparks, Jim. 2006. "A Steep Rise In the Beltway: Higher Costs, Public Requests Fatten Price." Winston- Salem Journal. June 21. (downloaded from

(8) Sparks, Jim. 2006. "Beltway Nearing its Final Hurdles." Winston-Salem Journal. December 26. (downloaded from, 1/12/07).

(9) Sparks, Jim. 2006. "Eastern Leg Faces a Year's Delay." Winston-Salem Journal. September 8. (downloaded from, 9/8/06).

(10) NCDOT. 2003. Winston-Salem Northern Beltway-Eastern Section Extension. Downloaded from, April 7, 2003.

(11) Young, Wesley. 2010. "Judge: Northern Beltway Can be Built Around Winston-Salem." Winston-Salem Journal. May 20. (downloaded from May 21, 2010.

(12) NCDOT. 2011. Urban Loop Strategic Prioritization Process. Downloaded from reform/prioritization/, March 10, 2012.

(13) NCDOT. 2012. Winston Salem Northern Beltway. NCDOT High Profile Projects and Studies. Downloaded from, March 10, 2012.

(14) NCDOT. 2008. Winston-Salem Northern Beltway Eastern Section and Eastern Section Extension Final Map, Public Hearing Document. Handout. August 14.

(15) NCDOT. 2019. Application to AASHTO for the Establishment of an Interstate Route (I-274 Future). April 23. Downloaded from:, June 4, 2019.

(16) NCDOT. 2017. State Transportation Improvement Program, 2020 to 2029, Draft, Division 9, Page 9-8/31.

(17) NCDOT. 2023. State Transportation Improvement Program, Final. June. Downloaded from:, Oct. 9, 2023.

(18) Young, Wes. 2023. "Wait grows longer for western segment of Winston-Salem Northern Beltway." Winston-Salem Journal. October 6. Downloaded from:, Oct. 9, 2023.

Site Created: August 3, 2019        Last Updated: November 27, 2023.

(c) Robert H. Malme 2019-2023

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