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 With the new revised STIP process starting in 2011, the project is no longer listed because it is not due to be funded until after 2025.3 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 WILL JUMP START UPGRADE
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 7, 2016 meeting. The project is projected to cost about $87 million and is due to be completed by 2025. Whether the project will include a bypass of Laurel Hill is still undecided.5
One of the I-74 Corridor Signs placed along US 74 between Hamlet and Laurinburg. Photo courtesy of Adam Prince
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