Image of NC Interstate 74 shield (from Shields Up!)  Segment 15

Where:    US 74, Laurinburg-Maxton Bypass, west of Laurinburg, Scotland County, to near Alma, Robeson County

Length:   14 Miles

Needed:  Upgrade to Interstate Standards.

Currently Signed as:   Image of US 74 shield, from Shields Up! Photo of Future I-74 corridor sign, courtesy of 
	Adam Prince

Segment Information

BACKGROUND

Around the cities of Laurinburg and Maxton, I-74 is to be routed onto the existing US 74 bypass. This freeway runs a total of 14 miles around Laurinburg to the south and around Maxton to the north. This was the first section of I-74 to be signed along US 74 when this stretch of highway received Future Interstate 74 signs in 1998, creating a unique circumstance of two different highway shields with the same number standing side-by- side.1 Unlike the Rockingham Bypass, the Future I-74 signage existed only on the Bypass itself, and not at the entrance ramps. The Laurinburg part of the bypass was built in the 1960's and is not up to current Interstate design standards. The Maxton segment, though newer, is also not Interstate standard. NCDOT typically puts up Future Interstate shields where there is a project in place to bring the highway up to Interstate guidelines or where an interstate standard roadway exists that is not connected to a signed interstate route. There has been no project to upgrade the roadway listed up through the 2012-2018 STIP meaning no funding for a project at least through 2020. However, according to design documents for the new I-74 freeway being built to the east (see Segment 16) NCDOT was suppose to sign it as a full Interstate when that project almost completed in November of 2008.2 However, NCDOT in the summer of 2007 began placing signposts that will hold the new I-74/US 74 signs along the highway and at exit ramps and for the new mileposts along the Bypass.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE I-74

In November 2008, around the time the first part of the new segment of I-74 to the east opened, they signed the Bypass as full interstate I-74 and US 74 and put up exit signs matching I-74 mileage*, only the second segment of the highway to do this. It was thought by the author and others that perhaps NCDOT had gotten a waiver from the FHWA to sign the interstate now with a promise to upgrade the highway later as with I-73/74 on a previously existing section of US 220 near Candor, (see I-73 Segment 9). The I-74/US 74 signage covered the complete length of the Maxton and Laurinburg Bypasses. The exits were numbered using I-74 mileposts as well, starting with Exit 207 (see exit list below), however these numbers needed to be changed due to a correction of numbers to the east, there were two exits 207, 209 and 210 for example. NCDOT 'solved' this problem temporarily by greening over the duplicate numbers in Laurinburg, see February 2009 photos below. In late April and May 2009 they finally got around to fixing the numbers, listed below. (or go to the I-74 Exit List). It seemed construction, for now, was complete on this section.

However, in the middle of 2009, word came down to NCDOT that, since neither bypass was up to interstate standards, all I-74 signs had to come down.4 All shields mounted on polls on the highway, and at crossing interchange onramps (in Scotland County) came down (with 1 exception, see photos below), with nothing put in their place. Mileage posts and exit numbers were not changed, nor initially were any overhead signs (this occured in early 2010). Unless NCDOT convinces the FHWA otherwise, it is likely I-74 signs will not appear on this segment for at least another 10 years. That's the earliest a project to upgrade the bypasses could conceivably start. Who contacted the FHWA about the I-74 signs is unclear, though it happened around the time the NCDOT Board member for the region, who had made I-74 a priority, suddenly decided to retire.4 Was this a coincidence? Possibly, it looks like NCDOT didn't send a letter to the FHWA about getting permission to sign I-74 until the fall of 2009. The reply letter in December 2009 only gives permission for I-74 to be signed along the new freeway, or east of the now Alt. US 74/Bus. US 74 interchange, not on the Maxton Bypass to the west.5 Laurinburg officials were at least hopeful in early 2010 that the future I-74 signs would be put back up eventually, however, by 2013, not only had no new signs gone up, but NCDOT removed the bare support posts that had held the Future, then official I-74 signs. The only reference to I-74 is on a guide sign that remains on East US 74 prior to the Bypass, the former East banner covered over with a 'Future' label.

NEW FUNDING TO 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 with a cost around $87 million.6 The Board approved the funding at their January 7, 2016 meeting. The upgrade should be completed by 2025.7

Changed Numbers for Exits along the Laurinburg-Maxton Bypass (West to East)2, Corrected numbers put up in the Fall of 2008 for the then I-74 freeway, old are in ( ):3
Exit 181 (207)  Business US 74 Laurinburg (EB off-ramp only) (207 number greened out before being replaced)
Exit 182 (208)  NC 79 Gibson (WB only off-ramp)(208 number greened out before being replaced)
Exit 183 (209)  US 15/401 North US 501 Fayetteville Bennettsville
Exit 184 (210)  Business US 15/401 Laurinburg
Exit 185 (211)  US 501 South Rowland
Exit 186 (212)  To Business US 74
Exit 187 (213)  Business US 74
Exit 190 (215)  Laurinburg-Maxton Airport
Exit 191 (216)  NC 71 Maxton Red Springs

Photos From Along the Segment

Photos from December 2007, January 2008 and May 2009, going east and then coming back westbound:

Photo of first sign for Laurinburg Bypass on US 74 East, Feb. 2009 This is the first sign going eastbound on US 74 that includes an official shield for I-74, it was still there in March 2010, but the 'East' Banner over the I-74 shield had been replaced with 'Future' even after most all of the other I-74 signs had been taken down (replaced by several 'Future I-74 Corridor' signs), suggesting a possible return of the Future I-74 shields at a later date. (February 2009)


Photo of first exit on Laurinburg Bypass heading east with corrected exit
numbers in place in May 2009This is what the first exit looked like at the beginning of the Laurinburg Bypass with the correct exit number installed, May 2009. Photo Courtesy of James Mast (JM).


Photo of overhead signs at the beginning of the Laurinburg Bypass in Nov. 
2009 after I-74 signs were removedThis is what it looked in November 2009. Everything's the same as of March 2010 except the overhead sign on the right now just indicated US 74 and the I-74 ground-level sign is missing next to the US 74 sign on the right. (11/15/09)


Photo of former I-74/US 74 sign assembly on Luarinburg Bypass, Nov. 2009A closer look at the sign assembly with the empty pole that used to say East I-74. (11/15/09)


Photo of exit sign for US 74 Business with greened out duplicative exit 
number, Feb. 2009In February 2009, with the former exit number, 207, the same as for US 74 Business at the western end of the bypass, the number had been greened out to prevent confusion to drivers over duplicate numbers.


Photo of US 15/401/501 exit with greened out exit tab, courtesy of Jim MastA closer look on how NCDOT changed the numbers, a simple patch over the old number. This is the beginning of the famed US 15-501 highway, which ends in Durham. (JM)


Photo of US 15/401/501 exit sign with previous wrong exit number, Nov. 2009Another look at the sign for the same exit in November 2009, the exit number now has that of I-74 mileage. (11/15/09)


Photo of Bus. US 15 and 401 exit signs in May 2009, courtesy of Jim MastPhoto from May 2009 showing both the new exit number for US Bus. 15 and 401, plus a new milepost, though they seem to disagree slightly, again these numbers were not changed after the I-74 shields were taken down. (JM)


Photo of Bus 15 and 401 exit signs in Feb. 2009 with wrong exit numbersHere's the same exit in February 2009, then Exit 210, between duplicated exit numbers to the east.


Photo of US 501 South exit on Laurinburg Bypass in May 2009, courtesy of Jim 
MastNew Exit 185 where US 501 heads out on its own, toward Myrtle Beach, this formerly had been Exit 211. Notice the one legged, seeming too small exit gore sign.(JM)


Photo of exit signage for NC 71 on West US 74, courtesy of Jim Mast in May 
2009Heading back west on US 74, here's the new Exit 191 number for the NC 71 exit to Maxton (JM).


Photo of NC 71 exit sign on Maxton Bypass with wrong exit number in Dec. 
2008Here's the exit for NC 71 from December 2008, then listed as Exit 217.


Photo of exit gore sign for then Exit 216 on Laurinburg Bypass in Dec. 
2008 Also from December 2008, a gore sign for the Laurinburg- Maxton Airport Exit, then 216, now 190.


Photo of exit signage for US 74 Business exit on the 
Laurinburg Bypass, May 2009. Courtesy of James MastHere's a well sun-lit view of new Exit 187, for US 74 Business (JM).


Photo of exit signage for US 74 Business on Laurinburg Bypass with 
wrong exit number, Dec. 2008Here's how it looked in December 2008, with an Exit 213 tab added to existing sign for US 74 Business


Photo of I-74/US 74 signage on Laurinburg Bypass in Nov. 2007Interstate I-74/US 74/US 501 assembly in Laurinburg as it appeared in November 2007.


Photo of US 74 signage with now removed I-74 sign on Laurinburg Bypass in 
Nov. 2009How the assembly looked in Nov. 2009, in this case the center pole, along with any reference to I-74 has been removed. (11/15/09)


Photo of exit signage for Bus. 15/401 on Laurinburg Bypass with wrong 
exit number in Jan. 2007From January 2007, another look at then Exit 210, Business US 15/401, again this exit number is now 184 .


Photo of exit signage for NC 79 along then I-74 in May 2009, Courtesy of 
James MastHere's the new exit number and I-74/US 74 shields for the last exit going westbound, NC 79 (JM).


Photo of exit signs and Interstate 74/US 74 shields at then Exit 208 of the 
Laurinburg Bypass in Dec. 2007The gore signs and I-74/US 74 shields in December 2007. The 208 number was greened out in 2008 due to its duplication further east on the new I-74 freeway. The I-74 shield in the background was removed in the second half of 2009.


Photo of the first overhead signs for the Laurinburg Bypass showing
I-74 shields in Dec. 2007, courtesy of Adam PrinceHere's the first I-74/US 74 Overhead Sign at the beginning of the Laurinburg Bypass heading east (photo courtesy of Adam Prince), compare this to the photo from February 2009.


Photo of the former End I-74 sign at west end of the Laurinburg Bypass 
in Nov. 2008End I-74 signage at the west end of the Laurinburg Bypass in November 2008, the I-74 signs are now gone, an end I-74 sign had not been placed at the new end, after the Alternate US 74/Business US 74 exit at the beginning of the Maxton Bypass heading west.


These photos show how ramp signage along the Bypass has progressed since 1998:

Photo of Junction US 74 signage typical of Laurinburg Bypass before any I-74 signs
were placed there At first, only junction US 74 signage was seen approaching the interchange, like here at US 501 North, when Bypass was signed as Future I-74/US 74


Photo of typical ramp signage at time Laurinburg Bypass was signed as I-74, Jan. 
2008When I-74 was signed, new signage was installed at each intersection showing both I-74 and US 74 (January 2008).


Photo of typical ramp signage on Laurinburg Bypass after removal of I-74 
signs, Nov. 2009The latest condition of interchange signage with the same sign poles, but no I-74 shield or direction.(11/15/09)


Photo of intersection directional signage along Laurinburg Bypass when it was
signed as I-74, Jan. 2008Directional signage nearer the US 501/I-74/US 74 interchange from January 2008.


Photo of intersection signage along Laurinburg Bypass after I-74 signs were
 removed. Nov. 2009Signage at the other side of the intersection, as it appeared in late 2009, the signs as they appear now for the east on-ramp are in the background of the previous November 2009 photo. (11/15/09)


Photo of interchange signage at US 501 exit on Laurinburg Bypass when signed as 
I-74, Jan. 2008Signage at the onramp to I-74/US 74 East/US 501 South before the I-74 signs were removed later in the year. (January 2008)


Photo of interchange signage at Exit 183 off the Laurinburg Bypass, after I-74 
exits had been revised, May 2009. Courtesy of James MastHere's the interchange signage at Exit 183, US 15/401/501 North in May 2009, showing correct exit number and I-74 signage (JM).


Photo of interchange signage at Exit 183 off the Laurinburg Bypass, after 
I-74 signs had been removed, Nov. 2009.Here's what a similar sign assembly looks like as of November 2009. Are the spaces on the polls waiting for I-74 shields to return, or Future I-74 signs? (11/15/09)


Photo of on-ramp signage at east end of Maxton Bypass showing removal of I-74 
shield, Nov. 2009In Robeson County, there are still I-74 shields at two exits on the Maxton Bypass. Here's the sign at the transition ramp to the new freeway to the east, the West I-74 sign on the Bypass has been removed. (11/15/09)


Photo of signage at on-ramp from NC 71 to Maxton Bypass, showing still
existing I-74 East signage, March 2010At the NC 71 Exit a few miles east, there are still East I-74 signs before the intersection and by the on-ramps. According to a few online maps, this is where I-74 East now begins. (3/10/10)


Photo of newly placed Future I-74 Corridor sign at west end of Maxton Bypass, 
March 2010I-74 Corridor Signs have replaced the I-74 shields along the remainder of the Maxton Bypass westbound. Notice the substandard right and left shoulders. (3/10/10)