From the end of the I-74 freeway near Mt. Airy, I-74 is to use the current US 52 freeway to just north of Winston-Salem. This freeway was originally built in 1960s and is not up to current interstate standards(1) (Interstates have higher specifications than normal freeways, some of specs include (at least) 12' wide lanes, 12 foot wide right shoulders, 10 foot wide left shoulders, 36 foot (in rural areas) or 10 foot medians (urban or mountainous areas), and design speeds of either 60 mph (urban) or 70 mph (rural). For more about interstate standards, see the AASHTO page).
Early Attempt to Sign US 52 as Interstate 74
When the routes for I-73 and I-74 were finally agreed to in 1996, NCDOT asked that US 52 be signed as Interstate 74 south to NC 65 (where I-74 was to be routed off onto the eastern half of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, See the I-74 Segment 4 page) and the US 52 freeway through Winston- Salem to I-40 signed as 'Temporary I-74.' The latter application was rejected by AASHTO, however, which suggested that part of US 52 could simply be signed 'To I-74'.(2) The FHWA then refused to allow NCDOT to sign the rest of US 52 as I-74 because the road was not to interstate standards, nor Future I-74 because projects to upgrade the road were unfunded. Instead, they allowed NCDOT to sign the route as a 'Future I-74 Corridor.' An example of one of these signs is below. In order for NCDOT to sign the route at least as Future I-74, projects to improve the freeway must be funded in the state's transportation program. A project to upgrade the highway had been listed in the yearly State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) documents going back to 1999, but as unfunded. That project, No. I-4404, is to upgrade the roadway to interstate standards at an estimated cost of $101 million for both right-of way and construction.(3) Given the new NCDOT STIP procedure for listing only funded highway projects with construction to start by 2023, this project is no longer listed.
NCDOT Studying Other Alternatives
In the Draft STIP released in September 2012, a new listing appeared for this segment, a scheduled Feasibility Study (No. FS-1209A) to look further into the best ways of upgrading the 21.3 mile corridor to interstate standards.(4) In reality, the highway's shoulders in Forsyth and Stokes Counties are actually quite close to interstate standard widths, after a recent upgrading of the road. In 2010 further construction work was done to upgrade the shoulders along with repaving the highway. The southern end of these projects were near the location of the planned Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (near NC 65). US 52 south of there is being upgraded to remove some of the problem interchanges, but this project to bring the road up to interstate standards is unrelated to I-74, go to my Interstate 285 page for more details. In 2011, a new interchange was opened up on US 52 in the town of King. The interchange and roadway 1/4 mile surrounding it were built to interstate standards (see photos below).
Comment: Like along the pre-existing US 311 freeway, NCDOT should put up Future I-74 shields along this stretch of highway, or at least change exit numbers to those reflecting I-74's mileage once the I-74 freeway is completed from High Point to US 220 (I-73) in early 2013. Plus, instead of waiting until the Winston-Salem Beltway portion of I-74 is completed, US 52 south of the planned beltway and I-40 to US 311 east of Winston- Salem could be signed, as AASHTO approved them to do in 1997, as 'To I-74.' This would provide a continuous freeway route with I-74 signs from the Virginia border south and east almost to Asheboro.
View of Pilot Mountain from Northbound US 52 Scenic Overlook, Stokes County. View taken on 10/24/10, freeway was undergoing rehabilitation including extending the width of shoulders (using gravel) that may make the signing of the route as I-74 easier to do in the future. (10/24/10)
New signage at the northern end of the segment at the US 52 Exit. This signage was placed in the Summer of 2010 and corrects the previous sign which had the duplicative words To I-77, To Wytheville. (10/24/10)
The signs at the US 52 ramp. The I-74 Exit sign was corrected too. The exit tab design makes it easy to transfer the tab to the other sign (and revised to Exit 17) when the segment is declared an interstate. (10/24/10)
Some 2012 Photos along US 52--
Typical US 52 interchange signage, this for US 52 South (Future I-74 East) in Pinnacle, current Exit 129. (7/15/12)
The new 2011 bridge over US 52 at King. The freeway surrounding the new interchange was rebuilt to interstate standards. (7/15/12)
View of US 52 North (Future I-74 West) after the King interchange bridge showing modern interstate design of highway. (7/15/12)
New exit signage for modified King/Tobaccoville exit. The signs are up to standards, they await new exit numbers when freeway becomes I-74 East. (7/15/12)
This is the first 'Future I-74 Corridor' sign along US 52 South near Mt. Airy. Photo courtesy of H.B. Elkins. (2004)