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End of US highway 521

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Additional research and/or photo credits: Mark Clifton; Justin Cozart; Richard Cuff; Chris Curley; Andy Field; Karin and Martin Karner; Brian Miller; Alex Nitzman; Chris Patriarca; Mike Roberson; Adam Prince

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1933-1968 Pineville, NC Georgetown, SC
1968-1976 Charlotte, NC (US 29) Georgetown, SC
1976-1985 Charlotte, NC (NC 49) Georgetown, SC
1985-2003 Charlotte, NC (I-85) Georgetown, SC
2003-present Charlotte, NC (I-485) Georgetown, SC

The south end of US 521 has always been in Georgetown SC. The photos below were taken looking east on Highmarket Street:

left: Prince, Oct. 2000 - right: Karners, Apr. 2014

US 521 ends at its junction with US 17, which is the intersection ahead (Fraser Street). This junction used to be signed properly (left photo); I'm not sure why the more recent replacement (right) was changed to "TO US 17", when Fraser is US 17... as the signage ahead attests:

Karners, Apr. 2014

But that's not the only signage failure, as we'll see below. But first, I should mention that in about 1968, the US 521 designation was extended straight ahead on Highmarket. Mike reports seeing US 521 signed both directions from US 17 on Highmarket through the 1990s, although he doesn't recall any US 521 signage east of there. The shot below is looking east on Church Street, or south on US 17:

Google Maps Street View, May 2013

US 17 curves to the right, but to the left on St. James Street was the south beginning of US 521 for a period of about 30 years. But apparently that segment was truncated around 2000, when US 521 signage from Fraser began pointing only to the west on Highmarket. The photo below is from northbound Fraser/US 17:

left: Cozart/Nitzman, Nov. 2006 - right:
Karners, Apr. 2014

That assembly shown on the left replaced a structurally-identical one that was there at least through 2000. (Incidentally, about one block ahead, you can barely make out the overhead signage for the south beginning of US 701.) But for some reason, a more recent replacement (right) indicates that Highmarket is actually US 17A, leading TO US 521. But the truth is, about two blocks to the left, US 17A comes in via Exchange Street, and joins US 521 along Highmarket. The first confirming marker is just past that junction:

Karners, Apr. 2014

The two routes are co-signed for about 10 miles, where they diverge at Sampit.

In 1933, its first year of commissioning, the north end of US 521 was in Pineville NC (just south of Charlotte). Originally US 21 came in from the west on Main Street, or modern NC hwy. 51, and then went north along Polk Street (which soon becomes South Boulevard). The shot below is looking north on Polk:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

That shows the original north terminus of US 521 - straight ahead was northbound US 21, while southbound was to the left on Main. In 1968, US 521 was extended straight ahead, initially co-signed with US 21 into downtown Charlotte. But the US 21 designation was gradually shifted over to what is now I-77 (as segments of that freeway were opened to traffic), leaving only US 521 on South Blvd. At Morehead Street, US 521 turned west, ending at Graham Street, where it junctioned US 29. Graham no longer connects with Morehead (because of the nearby stadium and I-277); the photo below shows what's there now:

Google Maps Street View, June 2014

That's looking east on Morehead, or north on US 29, which today continues by turning left on Mint Street, at the far side of the freeway overpass. But originally, US 29 turned left just on this side of the overpass, at what is now an entrance to the stadium, but was once Graham Street. So the north beginning of US 521 was straight ahead.

That was the case until 1976. Then northbound US 521 traffic was directed to turn west on Woodlawn Road, passing through I-77's interchange 6, and ending at Tryon Street (NC 49). Here's a modern view of that junction:

Google Maps Street View, June 2014

That was the north end of US 521 at Tryon. (In case you're confused about the signage there, it's referring to I-77/US 21, but for some reason it's signed only for US 21.) When Billy Graham Parkway (straight ahead) was completed in 1985, US 521 was extended that direction to a terminus at I-85's interchange 33. This shot was looking north on BGP:

Curley, 2001

There was no "End" sign... well, at least not for the end of US 521:

Patriarca, summer 2003

The photo below was from northbound I-85...

Patriarca, summer 2003

...and the shot below was from southbound:

Patriarca, summer 2003

If you were to exit there, the first southbound sign looked like this:

Field/Nitzman, Oct. 2001

When the I-485 loop was complete through the area and Johnston Road was built as a new four-lane connector, US 521 was switched over to Johnston and then multiplexed with I-485 to South Blvd, allowing traffic to bypass Pineville and a large segment of the original routing. Then in 2003, when the west loop of 485 was completed (joining 77 and 85), US 521 was truncated to its interchange with I-485 (exit 61). The photo below shows the spot...

Nitzman, May 2005

...although at that time the sign still reflected US 521's former multiplex with westbound I-485. Just ahead, an "End" sign is now posted:

Clifton, Feb. 2012

The photo below shows the beginning of US 521 as seen from eastbound I-485:

Nitzman, May 2005

Heading south on Johnston, this sign is posted at the I-485 interchange...

Clifton, Mar. 2010

...and continuing ahead, the first southbound sign is posted at the point where I-485 traffic merges in:

Nitzman, May 2005