Whatever Happened to the Rest of I-74?

August 25, 2018

Whatever Happened to the Rest of I-74?

Through the 1930a and 1940s, several limited access highways, or freeways, had been built in the U.S. However, as late as the early 1950s, there was still no plan for an organized and connected system.

One of the biggest champions of such a system was President Eisenhower who drew inspiration from Germany’s Autobahn. With bipartisan support, the Interstate Highway System was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June 29 of that year. Construction began soon after.

The original plan was completed in 1992. Along the way, proposed sections were canceled with others added. These additions to the original plan have resulted in a few oddities.

One interstate highway with several notable gaps is I-74. The western terminus of this highway is the interchange with I-80 in Davenport, IA. From there, it runs south and east through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, ending with the interchange at I-75 in Cincinnati. However, in North Carolina, I-74 exists in 3 different segments, some of which are cosigned with other interstates. If the Interstate Highway System is complete, why is there a huge gap in I-74?

The simple answer is there isn’t a gap. According to the original Interstate Highway Plan, Interstate 74 was to run from Davenport, IA to Cincinnati, OH. The other parts of I-74 came later, largely at the behest of North Carolina, which roped in neighboring states Virginia and South Carolina, and would include Interstate 73. Running from Myrtle Beach, SC to Sault Ste. Marie, MI, I-73 would run through Ohio, connecting Columbus and Toledo, while being cosigned with an extended I-74 in West Virginia, Virginia, and the Carolinas.

Currently, Ohio and Michigan have no plans to build their part of I-73. The extension of I-74 from Cincinnati to the proposed I-73 in West Virginia also seems unlikely. Yet, every few years, the question of extending I-74 eastward comes up.

The idea dates back at least to the construction of the I-275 loop, which originally was only to run from I-71 in Sycamore Township to I-74. The plan was later changed to make the highway a full loop around Cincinnati, the longest such loop in the U.S., and the only one to traverse three states.

As an aside, one intriguing ghost from the I-275 master plan is the interchange at Milford which is now the Milford Parkway. For years this interchange sat with its western portion coming to a dead end in a field, with the eastern part running less than half a mile to U.S. 50, which it still does.

It seems like this was going to be where an extended I-74 came through on its way east and presumably south. This was not the case, however, as Brian Cunningham, communications manager for ODOT District 8, revealed to the Cincy Shirts Blog.

The Milford interchange was for a widened and rerouted U.S. 50. that would bypass Milford starting at Eastman Drive and head due west. It would then run south of the city and connect to Wooster Pike (also Route 50) at the border with Terrace Park. However, when the Little Miami was designated a National Scenic River in 1973, those plans were scrapped. 

As for an extended I-74, subsequent plans have called for that interstate to be cosigned with I-75 north to the Norwood Lateral, then cosigned with I-71 north to Red Bank Road, which would, in turn, be upgraded to I-74 east and extend along the Little Miami River between Fairfax and Mariemont to the north and Newtown to the south. It would then join State Route 32 east of Eight Mile Road in Anderson and be re-signed I-74 (see the image at top).

That all works great until you get to Fairfax. Residents in Mariemont and Newtown have been very vocal in their opposition to the idea. Looking at a map, it seems the lateral could have been extended eastward and connected to the interchange in Milford, but that would have bisected Madisonville and run through Indian Hill and Terrace Park, three communities that would certainly put the kibosh on that plan.

As it stands now, Virginia and the Carolinas are going to build their sections of I-73 and I-74, with West Virginia upgrading their part of U.S. 52 which will connect with the two interstates. As for I-74 through Cincinnati and I-73 north from Portsmouth through Columbus, Toledo, and on through Michigan, those plans are pretty much dead.

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