The routing of this segment has changed since plans for I-73 were first proposed. Initially it was assumed I-73 was to be routed onto NC 68 south from the end of the NC 68-US 220 connector to I-40. Though NC 68 is a divided highway for this entire length, it is not actually a freeway for 1/3 of a mile between the I-40 interchange and the Triad Center Drive intersection (which has a stoplight). The freeway portion north of there is also not up to Interstate standards with narrow shoulders and insufficient ramp acceleration and deceleration lanes. The current interchange between NC 68 and I-40 would also have had to be vastly upgraded, something not done when I-40 was widened a few years ago.
In May 2003, the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization announced major highway planning initiatives around the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA). Their proposals included a new 6-lane freeway to start at a relocated Bryan Boulevard and running to the proposed eastern half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (later dubbed the I-73/74 Connector, listed as an unfunded project in the 2009-2015 STIP) with an additional spur leading to I-40 west of Greensboro at the split of Interstate 40 and Business 40 and a new I-73 routing which, from the NC 68-US 220 connector, put I-73 briefly onto NC 68 and then onto Bryan Boulevard (the western part to be relocated due to the need for a new airport runway for the FedEx hub facility) to the Greensboro Urban Loop freeway (I-840). (For a map of these proposed highways and more about this Future NC Interstate, go look at my NC Future Interstates Site). The impetus for this new route was to avoid the expensive reworking of the NC 68 interchange with I-40 and to take I-73 traffic off of I-40 between Winston-Salem and Greensboro.1,2 In August 2003, NCDOT added all the Greensboro MPO PTIA area highway proposals to its list of Division projects, committing state funds to more fully study the proposals, and build them once approved.
In March 2004 NCDOT let the $44.3 million contract for the construction of the Bryan Boulevard relocation and the PTI Airport Authority gave permission to the contractor to start construction on April 23, 2004.3,4 The relocated highway opened in November 2006 and included a new, temporary, entrance to the airport. Eventually by the time the Hub opened in 2009 a permanent airport interchange involving four bridges and nine ramps was completed to connect Bryan Blvd to the PTI terminals.5 (The other roadways proposed by the Greensboro MPO, if built, won't be constructed until at least 2020.)
Though NCDOT never announced a change in I-73's route, maps put out by NCDOT, both for their Strategic Highway Corridors initiative and regarding their US64/NC 49 corridor study showed Bryan Blvd between NC 68 and the Greensboro Loop as I-73. (To look at a Loop map and other connected projects,go to the NCDOT project map). And it was also shown in the map above from a report on the economic benefits of I-73 and I-74 (see the I-73/I-74 Links page), which says the routing information came from NCDOT. The 2009-2015 STIP, however, only listed a feasibility study in progress (Number FS-0507A) "To Determine Routing of Future I-73 in the Greensboro Area."6 At a June 2005 meeting in Greensboro when NCDOT announced the start of this study they said it could take two years to complete and would involve looking at four 15-mile corridors (two of which a spokesman said were almost likely to be ruled out, one of which was a route using US 220 south of Summerfield to the Greensboro Loop that would have required cutting through some of Greensboro's water supply lakes, the other was probably the routing along NC 68 to I-40), up to three miles of which would involve new construction. Greensboro officials stated at the time that they would like the study completed sooner, since the building of the FedEx hub had increased development pressures in the area and they would like to know as soon as possible what land should be preserved for I-73.9 The study was to produce a recommendation by July 2007, however, no formal announcement was ever made, and the feasibility study was still listed in the 2007 STIP.
A newspaper article in early August 2007 indicated that it was 'likely' I-73 would be routed on the Greensboro Urban Loop from US 220 to Bryan Blvd, as depicted in previous NCDOT documents.(7) At a public meeting in Summerfield later in September 2007 NCDOT officials discussed the two options for an I-73 interchange with NC 150 before local residents. This would only be needed if I-73 would be using the NC68-US 220 Connector.8 Finally, signs put up along the completed Greensboro Loop section in December 2007 referred to the route as either 'Future I-73/I-840' or 'I-40/I-73,' clinching the new route as official (see photo in Segment 5). Signs on Bryan Blvd at the the Loop interchange, however, only indicated 'To I-40, Winston-Salem.' A photo below shows that the new road built near the future Airport interchange may be up to Interstate standards, the interchange will be around the corner where a traffic lighted intersection currently exists. The roadway beyond the lights to the Greensboro Loop interchange appears to be built to interstate standards as well. The study's apparent recommendation came in October 2008, NCDOT and the Greensboro MPO agreed on a plan which takes I-73 off the Loop at Bryan Blvd then takes Bryan Blvd west about 1.8 miles beyond the airport interchange. Following this interchange, I-73 will continue west but be routed on a new freeway 1.2 miles long to an upgraded NC 68 where it will turn north where after less than a mile it will leave on the NC 68-US 220 connector (See I-73 Segment 3). The cost of upgrading all 3 miles between NC 68 and the Loop was estimated to be $144.3 million according to the 2014-2023 STIP released in September 2012.10
In July 2013, NCDOT released plans for constructing the next segment of the Greensboro Loop from Bryan Blvd to US 220/Battleground Ave to start in the fall of 2013. As part of the project, the exits on the I-73 portion of the Loop north of I-40 will be changed to reflect I-73 mileage. The exit number for W. Friendly Road will changed from 2 to 104 and I-73 and Bryan Blvd will become 107 northbound, remaining Exit 3 the other direction. The exit signs will also be updated along the current Bryan Blvd section between the Loop and the PTI Airport exit. The exit sign will read Old Oak Ridge Road/ PTI GSO Airport and will be given the exit number 109. I-73 North signage accompanying the exit 109 signage will list Martinsville, VA as a destination, or control, city. It is unknown whether NCDOT plans to change the exit signs and numbers along the existing roadways at the end of the project, or while the next segment of the Loop is being constructed.11 Here's a few images of the signage plans for Bryan Blvd:
For now, NCDOT has posted several To I-73 South trailblazers along Bryan Blvd. heading east such as seen through this link to Google Street View.
Meanwhile, it was announced in late May 2013 that the timetable for construction of the I-73 Connector had been moved up from 2016 to the Spring 2014, pending the completion of an environmental assessment by URS Corp. The I-73 construction project (Tip No. I-5110) also includes building an additional taxiway for PTI Airport and developers of land adjacent to the airport, that can only be reached by the new taxiway, urged the timing of the project to be sped up so not to lose out on the major manufacturing companies that would like to build there. The NCDOT spokesman indicated if the project started on schedule, it could be completed during 2015.12 In September 2013 NCDOT posted the letting list for its Design-Build Projects over the next year. The I-73 Connector project was now combined with the project to build the 'NC 68-US 220 Connector', TIP Project R-2413, Parts A and B, and the combined design-build contract was let in April 2014 and work started in early May. The project was awarded to a joint venture of Flatiron Constructors and Blythe Development Co. for $176.6 million. Work has started on clearing the freeway's path and removing dirt for construction of the taxiway near the PTI Airport. As of the end of December 2015 work was 47.4% complete. The completion date for the project is listed as April 2017.13 However, in January 2016, NCDOT officials indicated that the April date was for the taxiway, and that they planned to open the entire stretch of I-73 from the Airport to US 220 (see Segment 3) by the end of 2016.14 NCDOT also announced on July 9, 2015 that the project that will complete the final upgrades to the I-73/Bryan Boulevard/I-840 Greensboro Loop interchange (work originally part of the I-73 Connector project contract, but separated out before that was awarded) had also been awarded to Flatiron/Blythe for $5 million. Work began on September 8, 2015 and the project is, as of the end of December, 24.5% complete with project completion, with the exception of planting, reforestation and permanent vegetation, anticipated for September 2016.15
For diagrams of the route to be constructed and, possibly, the latest news, on the project, visit the NCDOT site:
Looking west at clearing at eastern end of project area, I-73 will go straight onto the Connector as Bryan Blvd. curves to the left. (Photo courtesy of Strider, August 2015).
This is Bryan Blvd going east, the probable future route of I-73 south will intersect somewhere near where the highway currently curves to the right, the entrance to the PTI Airport, seen in this photo was replaced by the interchange shown being constructed below. (Photo courtesy of Evan Semones, Urban Planet Triad Area Blog, May 2007).
A look at the Airport Interchange under construction. (Photo courtesy of Evan Semones, Urban Planet Triad Area Blog Post, May 2007.)
A look at the same area showing progress over the previous 1 1/2 years. (9/7/08)
Here's a photo showing new pavement being laid down near the Airport interchange in September 2008.
Completed bridges for the Airport interchange, notice the surrounding roadway appears to be interstate standard (9/7/08)
Further along Future I-73 South showing remaining bridge and roadway work needed to be completed. (9/7/08)
Existing Exit Signage at Greensboro Loop, notice extra backing for future larger sign, which would include space for exit tab, the exit will be for I-73 South and I-840 West and East. (9/7/08)
Here's a view of the Future I-73/I-840 Greensboro Loop from the future I-73 Flyover Ramp to Bryan Boulevard. (2/23/08)
Comment: If the freeways proposed by the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization between Bryan Blvd and I-40 and/or Bryan Blvd. to I-74 along the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway are constructed, why not give one an interstate designation such as I-273?
Where: Greensboro Urban Loop Freeway from Bryan Blvd South to US 220
Length: Approx. 12 Miles
Status: Completed, between February 2004 and February 2008
North of I-40 signed:
Original Alignment to I-40
Because of the new official routing of I-73 discussed above, the route of this segment was changed as well from when it was first proposed. Originally, I-73 was to use I-40 to get from the NC 68 interchange to the US 220 freeway. This route had I-73 following I-40 along its current path to near the current Chimney Rock Road exit where it would then take the route of the Greensboro Urban Loop (Painter Blvd.).
I-73's New Route to Use Greensboro Loop to Reach I-40
The new alignment will take I-73 east from NC 68 to the Loop, part on a new alignment and part on Bryan Blvd. The current road is a divided highway but not up to interstate standards its whole length (see above), then I-73 will join the Greensboro Loop and travel 3.5 miles south (with the highway being signed as Future I-73/ Future I-840, for now) to intersect I-40.13
Current Route from I-40 to US 220
Today I-73 officially begins at its interchange with I-40 and travels south to US 220. Work on the section north of I-40 (Future I-73/I-840) to serve the new FedEx hub started in August 2003, and was opened to traffic on December 18, 2007. The I-73 portion of the Loop west of I-85 to I-40, started at the same time and was finished on February 21, 2008.18 The total cost of construction for both sections (12 miles in length) was listed as $592 million in the 2007-2013 STIP.19 When the highway opened in early 2008 this was also part of the I-40 section of the Loop. However, in September 2008 after much citizen outcry about noisy traffic, NCDOT relented and put I-40 back on its original alignment through Greensboro. US 421 was rerouted to join the Loop from its exit south of Greensboro along the I-85 portion of the Loop and joins I-73 between I-85 and the I-40 exit (103) for about 7.5 miles. I-73 then turns south at the US 220 exit which now is signed I-73 South with new signs installed in 2013). While technically joining I-85 for a mile between Business 85 and US 220, I-73's path only overlaps I-85, the routes never actually meet in either direction. I-73 north uses a C/D ramp for the Groometown Road exit and merges with US 421 after it leaves I-85.15 The I-85 portion of the Loop was completed in February 2004, almost exactly 4 years before the I-73 section. A space was left on overhead signage along I-85 South for future I-73 shields at the new US 220 interchange (there is no US 220 access northbound from I-85, this means the northbound exit has an I-85 exit number, and originally southbound it had an I-40 exit number (which, coincidentally was 220) now it has an I-73 number, 96) which were installed in September 2013. Both interstates appear on many signs around the area (for more information on the Loop, go to the NCDOT Greensboro Loop page). (Curiously, signs put up for the US 220 exit on the newer I-73 section of the Loop in April 2007 did not include a space for I-73, these were replaced with I-73/US 220 signs in the spring of 2013, see photos below).16 I-73 North joins the Loop at Exit 95B, exiting itself off of US 220. Work on the section north of I-40 (Future I-73/I-840) to serve the new FedEx hub started in August 2003, and was opened to traffic on December 18, 2007. The I-73 portion of the Loop west of I-85 to I-40, started at the same time and was finished on February 21, 2008.17 The total cost of construction for both sections (12 miles in length) was listed as $592 million in the 2007-2013 STIP.18
New Signage Coming as a Result of Extension of Greensboro Loop
As discussed in Segment 4, as part of the contract to extend the Greensboro Loop north of Bryan Blvd to US 220/Battleground Avenue, new signage will be put up along the Loop north of I-40 (and on I-40 itself) that will apply new I-73 exit numbers and I-73 and I-840 signage.19 The construction work will start in the fall of 2013, the signage may not be put up, however, until the new roadway is completed. The West Friendly Avenue Exit will change numbers from 2 to 204 and I-840 will end at now Exit 203, I-40. The plans also indicate the I-840 exit for US 220 will be 6.
Here are some of the sign plans for the current section of the I-73/I-840 Loop the contract from the NCDOT Project Letting page. 20
And here are some of the plans for the new I-40 signage:
Here are photos taken in March 2013 showing the appearance of new I-73 related signage.
The first new sign along the Greensboro Loop for the now I-73/US 220 Exit 95 at the current Business 85 Exit put up during the third week of March. Photo courtesy of AARoads Forum contributor Strider (3/20/13).
The new sign approaching the former US 220 exit on the Greensboro Loop, now I-73/US 220 Exit 95, put up during the third week of March. Photo courtesy of AARoads Forum contributor Strider (3/28/13).
Here are some photos taken along the yet to be opened Future I-73/I-840 and then I-40/I-73 (now I-73/US 421) portions of the Urban Loop in September 2007 and after it opened. New photos of signs with changes due to the re-routing of I-40 appear before older ones.
The view from the Bryan Blvd. bridge over Future I-73/ I-840 before it opened in December 2007. Except for the future on-ramp to I-73 South/I-840 West on your left, the road is only graded because no construction is to take place north of here until 2013.
Construction going on at the Future I-73/I-840 / West Friendly Avenue (Exit 2) interchange in anticipation of its opening a few months later.
The future I-40/I-73 Urban Loop interchange with Wendover Avenue with further work due before opening in January 2008.
Looking westbound from the High Point Road bridge over the Future I-40/I-73 Loop section. This area is now a construction zone again for the building of a new interchange for High Point Road scheduled to be completed by 2014.
Also from the High Point Road bridge looking east along future I-40/I-73. The walls seen where the road curves are sound barriers, unlike much of the SE portion of the loop this freeway cuts through many existing neighborhoods.
Photo of only I-73 sign along segment north of I-40 after its opening in December 2007.
For additional photos of the northern part of the Loop open on December 18, go to this Photo Album Page.
Here was a sneak peak of the signs for the I-73 portion of the Loop before officially being opened on I-85 North (2/10/08).
The sign above initially read, when uncovered, West I-40/North I-73 Winston-Salem (I-73 control city (likely Martinsville VA) to be added later).
View of same sign as above when changed after I-40 was rerouted back to its original alignment. The sign on the left was replaced entirely, notice the US 421 control city of Sanford replaced Raleigh, the middle may be a new or modified sign, the right was made correct by removing the Business 40 shield. (6/14/09)
The following photos are on I-85 South at and approaching the I-73/US 220 Interchange:
New I-73 Shield Appears on Former blank space next to US 220 North sign at the C/D lane off-ramp in October 2013. Photo Courtesy of Strider (10/22/13)
New I-73 Shield Appearing on Sign 1/4 mile earlier along C/D Ramp for US 220 North on I-85 South, also put up in October 2013. Photo Courtesy of Strider (10/22/13)
I-73 shields appearing on the ramp signage on I-85 South, previously a blank space on the US 220 South Exit sign. Photo courtesy of Strider (9/29/13)
I-73 shields also appearing on the 1/2 mile advance signage along I-85 South. Photo Courtesy of Strider. (9/29/13)
The first new I-73 Sign seen approaching the ramp for the South Elm/Eugene St Exit on I-85 South, Photo courtesy of Strider. (9/29/13)
New To I-73 South Signage has also been put up on US 220 South approaching the Greensboro Loop from I-40 and Business 85. Photo courtesy of Strider. (9/29/13)
Here's what the signage looked like in February 2007 after the Loop first opened (2/23/07). This was the first 3 interstate shield sign going south/westbound on then I-85/40. The triple interstate highway existed on the sign only, as I-73 uses a C/D ramp from US 220 and joins the Loop after I-85 has left.
The Following photos show the 'split' between I-85 South and I-73/US 421 North:
Here is the second reference to the split of I-85 from I-73 and US 421, as indicated above, the two interstates actually do not share the road. I-73 uses a ramp from US 220 that joins US 421 after I-85 leaves the Loop. (6/26/09)
The sign assembly as it first appeared in February 2007 with the interchange complex now seen in the distance. The road on the far right is actually I-73, a continuation of the US 220 on-ramp that does not access I-85 but also accesses Groometown Road. I-73 joins the Loop after the Groometown Road exit a mile down the ramp. (2/23/07)
Looking at the split signage after it had been changed in June 2009. I-73 is actually the two lane ramp paralleling the main route to the right. (6/26/09)
The then split between I-85 and I-40, now I-85 and US 421 in February 2007. There are three lanes in each direction. US 421 does not actually join I-73 for about a 1/2 mile. (2/23/07)
Here's where I-73 actually joins US 421, the first I-73 milepost can be seen on the left, Mile 97. This exit is officially off of I-85, so that's why the exit number is 122A. In my opinion it should be rightfully I-73 Exit 97, Exit 97A on I-73 South accesses the same roadways. (6/26/09)
The Wendover Avenue Interchange
The new overhead signs put up in June 2009 are mostly correct, except for 'East' I-73. This signage has been changed to reflect the September 2008 decision to remove I-40 from the Loop. The East used to be over where I-40 was, as seen in the photo below, they forgot to change out the I-73 direction on signs going both ways on Wendover. (6/26/09)
Exit signage at the Wendover Avenue interchange as it appeared in March 2008. Shields for both I-40 and I-73 can be seen in the distance. (3/16/08)
A close-up of the shields at the I-73/US 421 North Entrance Ramp from Wendover Avenue on 3/16/08. Again, the I-40 sign seen above was removed in June 2009, replaced by a US 421 sign due to the NCDOT decision to remove I-40 from the Loop.
The left-hand sign in the photo was not up when I made my last road trip, notice it still does not have an exit tab (103B). Photo courtesy of Evan Semones (8/2/09).
The mainline text on the sign in this photo duplicates the exit signage on I-40 with no I-73 (nor I-840) shields, because NCDOT considers the loop north of I-40 too short to merit a full I-73 designation. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones (8/2/09).
The I-40 exit sign at the on-ramp does feature an Exit 103 tab, as well as the gore sign. The last time I drove through the number on the gore sign was correct but the arrow was pointing to the right. The sign on the right will be replaced by one with I-73 and I-840 shields at the conclusion of construction on the next segment of the Loop. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones (8/2/09).
An End North I-73 sign after the I-40 West exit ramp and just before the on-ramp from I-40 East. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones (8/2/09).
A Google Street View image taken in June 2014, appears to show that this has been since taken down (See for yourself).
This is what the signs in the Exit 103 photos above indicated before the I-40 switch. All that happened here was the switch of the exit tab to the I-40/US 421 sign with a change in number. These exit signs were changed in late June 2009, the left exit got an Exit 103B tab, however the right 103A gore sign pointed to the right.(12/08)
View in December 2008 heading East on I-40 the last sign assembly before the then I-40/Business 40 split and the beginning of the I-73 Segment. The Exit 212 sign someday will also have North I-73 and East I-840. (12/08)
View of sign change due to the NCDOT decision to return I-40 to its original alignment. This was what is now listed as Exit 212A now looks like. The sign was changed in late June 2009. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones. (7/21/09)
Another exit assembly for Exit 212. Notice that traffic to Raleigh is now told to take I-40 through Greensboro. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones. (7/21/09)
Here'a closer look at the 1/2 mile sign from the East I-40 Exit 211 on-ramp. Notice where the 212 number is, put up flush with 'Exit', while A is off to the right. (7/26/09)
Here's the signage at the split itself. Notice again how the exit number isn't centered on the now left exit tab. (7/26/09)
Now on West I-40, Exit 212B is for the now signed Future I-73 North/I-840 West. Again, NCDOT does not want put I-73 North on the signs until the highway is complete at least back to US 220 north of Greensboro. (7/26/09)
Here are the signs along West I-40 at the westbound off-ramp itself. (7/26/09)
Like the westbound, the eastbound signs to Future I-73 North will not have I-73 shields for a while. It still reads To Bryan Boulevard/PTI Airport. This route is now officially Interstate 73 according to the latest NCDOT map and so, IMO, the sign should be changed at least to indicate that. Photo courtesy of Evan Semones (7/21/09)
Exit sign for Wendover Avenue, the only exit not involving an Interstate on this stretch of the Loop. They started building a new exit for High Point Road in 2012. While the exit number was changed to 102, the left hand sign still had an I-40 on it. The control cities will probably be changed to read Asheboro and Sanford. This sign was changed later in 2009 (7/21/09).
The original ground-level shield assembly For I-40/I-73 on this stretch of the Loop, after the Wendover Avenue exit. This was replaced by the sign below in July 2009.
Finally, a sign for South I-73/US 421. The milepost to the left reads 102. (7/26/09)
Heading South on I-73 between Wendover and I-85, the South I-73 Mile 100 Milepost near where the future High Point Road interchange will as of July 2012 is under construction. (6/26/09)
Though this exit sign has not been changed, the number has changed to 97 which now accompanies both I-85 exits, instead of two seperate exit numbers when Loop was signed I-40. (6/26/09)
Unlike the original left-hand sign, the new signage recognizes that I-73 continues beyond the I-85 exits, unlike in the sign below. The co-routing of I-85 and I-73 implied in the sign is again misleading as the two routes never travel together. (6/26/09)
This sign seems to indicate that both Business 85 and I-85 are routed together for a couple miles, which is the case, no other signs indicate this. The original signage where the Loop meets I-85/Business 85. I-73 just disappeared, the US 220 exit signs going this way do not even have a space for I-73. Since the US 220 exit ramp going this way was on I-40 before the I-85 merge it was I-40 exit 220 (nice coincidence), instead of I-85 Exit 122 going the other way. (12/08)
Unfortunately, as before, I-73 simply disappears as it exits onto US 220 and becomes Future I-73. The only sign that this is still I-73 is the I-73 Mile 96 milepost seen below the US 220 sign.
Later in 2009 they placed an End South I-73 sign, just before the ramp to US 220 (Future I-73)
You can also find additional photos taken after the Loop was re-signed after I-40 was moved back at this post on the Sure, Why Not? blog.
View a YouTube Video of a Drive along this Segment.
Here's an additional map showing the total route of the Greensboro Urban Loop: