Sometime this fall, you won’t be able to take U.S. 311 to High Point anymore.
That’s because the state is removing the U.S. highway signs for the freeway that runs between Winston-Salem and Interstate 73 near Randleman. The freeway, which is now designated as both U.S. 311 and Interstate 74, will be called I-74 only.
U.S. 311 will still exist in a shortened form: From Winston-Salem to Walkertown, Walnut Cove and other points north.
But the southern 37 miles of the road will no longer be identified as 311 on the map.
“We do have a statewide interest in reducing situations where there are multiple designations along a single route,” said Aaron Moody, a public relations officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation. “In this case, the U.S. 311 designation was not really necessary with the interstate designation in place.”
The change was actually approved in 2018 but has not yet been reflected in the signs, which continue to show U.S. 311 mostly following the route of I-74 southeast of Winston-Salem.
For years, U.S. 311 has connected Randleman and Madison, running through High Point and Winston-Salem on the way. On the southeast side of Winston-Salem, a freeway built to High Point in the early 1980s stole the U.S. 311 designation from High Point Road.
I-74 was designated as a route through North Carolina in the 1990s, and by 2010 the freeway had been extended southeast of High Point to merge with I-73 at Randleman. The segment of U.S. 311 between Winston-Salem and High Point won its I-74 designation in 2013, with signs going up the next year.
It turned out that segment was designated prematurely, because the freeway between Winston-Salem and High Point doesn’t have wide enough shoulders to meet interstate highway standards. Federal officials let the designation stand, with the state promising to widen the shoulders at some time in the future.
Separately from the road designation, the N.C. Department of Transportation recently decided to raise the speed limit on the part of I-74 that loops around High Point.
That section is now 65 miles per hour, just like the other sections of I-74 in the area.
When the eastern section of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway is complete, sometime in the 2020s, it will be designated I-74. That plan created a new problem for the state highway officials to solve: What to call the existing freeway from I-40 to where the new beltway will intersect between Ridgewood and Union Cross roads.
Call it a problem already solved, Moody said. The segment will be known as N.C. 192.
Bob Leak, the president of Winston-Salem Business Inc., an industry-recruitment concern, said the removal of the U.S. 311 designation is a good thing, because it will better highlight I-74 as a potential business location.
“We are still showing U.S. 311 and I-74 on our material,” Leak said.
“Once that change happens, we will convert it to interstate. That is a positive thing: A lot of companies will do an initial site search based on proximity to an interstate highway. 311 will not show up in a search by someone in New York or wherever.”