I-440: Test Signs on I-440 | I-440 "North" and "South" | Misleading Sign #1: Which Way to 440?
Misleading Sign #2: The Multiplex That Isn't | "Outer" Sign with Capitol Dome
Sign assembly with "Inner" and "Outer" signs
I-540: 540 Sign from U.S. 70
|Interstate 440 24 miles|
|The Road:||The Cliff Benson Beltline. Full beltway around Raleigh.|
|Raleigh; Cary; count Garner if you want, too.|
|The only part of the Beltline that isn't at least six lanes wide is the stretch between Wade Avenue (exit 4) and U.S. 1/64 (no exit number). Widening for this stretch is scheduled. The rest of the Beltline alternates between six and eight lanes.|
|History:||Like I-240, I-440 wasn't numbered as such
until well after the road was built.
The stretch from U.S. 1/64 in Cary clockwise to U.S. 1/401 (North Boulevard then; Capital Boulevard now) was finished in the early 1960s, and was signed as U.S. 1/64.
By 1970, the Beltline was extended further clockwise, to New Bern Avenue. This road was signed only as U.S. 64 (U.S. 1 breaks away at North/Capitol Boulevard). Starting in the late 1970s, U.S. 70 was also signed along the Beltline between Glenwood Avenue and North (Capitol) Boulevard, and entered downtown Raleigh on North, rather than on Glenwood. This meant that for a couple of miles, west 70 went east along North Boulevard. Yeah, Raleigh highways have done a lot of weird stuff.
The bottom half of the Beltline, from 1/64 counterclockwise to New Bern Avenue, was built in the early 1980s and opened completely by 1984. Once the lower half was opened, U.S. 70 was sent completely around downtown Raleigh to the east along the Beltline. Later, I-40 and N.C. 50 were sent around the southern half of the Beltline as well.
The Beltline was first signed as I-440 in the summer of 1991, and soon thereafter, most of the northern half of the Beltline was rehabilitated. The first stretch to be rebuilt, from Glenwood Road to Six Forks Road, was opened in 1993; stretches east and west of there were done in pieces over the next couple of years.
With the reconstruction, the new northern segment of the Beltline is one of the more handsome roads around (photo), with planted medians and handsome red-brick noise barriers. While reconstruction was underway, it was discovered that some workers were arranging the light and dark bricks to form patterns such as long diagonal lines, arrows and even crosses. Perhaps because of this, kudzu now covers many of the walls. The kudzu actually makes the landscaping look better. Or at least IMHO. A counterpoint, from Scott D. Rhodes: "Contrary to your assertion, it is not possible under any circumstances for kudzu to make the landscaping of anything look better :-)".
On the other hand, the Beltline between I-40 and Wade Avenue has seen no upgrades since it was built, and is starting to look old.
Around 1994, most of the "secondary" highways that borrowed the Beltline to get around Raleigh (U.S. 70 and 401 and N.C. 50) were sent back through downtown Raleigh. Today, the only non-interstates that are signed along the Beltline are U.S. 1 (as always) and U.S. 64 (now routed along the south side). That said, now might be a good time for you to check out the Raleigh map page.
In 1995, parts of I-440 were first signed as the Inner or Outer Beltline (photo). By October 1997, the Inner and Outer signs appeared around the entire Beltline. While Washington's Capital Beltway has long had supplementary "Inner Loop" and "Outer Loop" designations, I-440 became the first road in the country on which Inner and Outer were officially used in place of compass directions. However, signs for "North" and "South" 440 can still be found on inbound Wade Avenue (photo). In addition to the directional indicators, special blue-on-white signs featuring a logo of Raleigh's Capitol Dome are posted (photo) on the Beltline and its approaches.
|Comments:||Mileposts and exit numbers start at 440's intersection with
I-40/1/64 near Cary and increase clockwise. 440's other junction with I-40,
to the southeast of Raleigh, is Exit 16. Around the south of Raleigh, 440
is multiplexed with I-40, and I-40's mileposts (293 to 301) take precedence.
440's "origin", at I-40/1/64, is a cloverleaf intersection. At this intersection, staying on 440 requires exiting. Otherwise, Outer 440 continues straight ahead as 1/64, and Inner 440 continues straight ahead as I-40. This is an upshot of the two-stage construction of the Beltline -- 1/64 and the northern Beltline were built first as one road; I-40 and the southern half came through later. This interchange is not signed well at all, especially on the Outer loop. One pictoral sign (photo) on the Outer loop, clearly a holdover from when other roads were multiplexed along the Beltline, doesn't indicate how the straight-ahead road is numbered (should be 1/64), and doesn't mention at all which way 440 goes! (And Garner is the destination city eastbound?)
While signing on the Beltline has improved (honest!) over the years, and was made particularly better when new overhead signs were hung along the eastern part of the Beltline in 1997, more oddities remain. I-440 shields are still an endangered species along the I-40 multiplex. And one sign assembly near exit 298 (photo) is flat out deplorable: It indicates U.S. 70 and N.C. 50 are signed along the Beltline, which hasn't been the case since 1994. Instead, 70 and 50 are multiplexed with U.S. 401 along South Saunders Street into downtown. (There are no fewer than three more gaffes on this sign assembly. They are left for the reader to discover.)
|Ideas:||Widen the stretch from I-40 clockwise to Lake Boone Trail to
at least six lanes.
Rebuild the 440/40/1/64 interchange so that 440 doesn't have to exit to itself. Barring that, erect signs that make it blindingly clear that the first/last exit on 440 is 440. House-sized 440 shields with tractor-trailer-sized arrows and the words "EXIT NOW" flashing in neon would be a good start.
Do the Inner/Outer thing on I-485 and I-640 when they're done, and convince other state DOTs to do it on their beltways. Especially GDOT on I-285. That "top-end Perimeter westbound" crap has just got to end.
|Interstate 540 3 miles|
|The Road:||Starts at I-40 exit 283.
Ends at U.S. 70.
|Six lanes for most of its short existence.|
|History:||Opened in January 1997. Had been under construction since 1992.|
|Comments:||Will eventually become Raleigh's second beltline; often referred
to as the Outer Loop. In the immediate future, plans call to extend 540
westward to N.C. 54 and eastward
all the way to U.S. 401. After traveling it in May 1998, it seems like
the next stretch of 540 to open will be east of 70, rather than west.
When the entire loop is finished, the road will be renumbered to I-640. An intriguing decision on two counts: it acknowledges the even/odd first-digit convention for 3dis, and it establishes a planned obsolescence for 540.
Otherwise, not too much to say right now. Check back in about 20 years; I'll know more.
|Ideas:||Would that other 3di follow the same 540/640 convention: I-485 in Charlotte could be called 585 for now, et cetera.|
|Interstate 640 proposed|
|The Road:||What I-540 will be renumbered to once the entire loop around Raleigh is finished. Don't hold your breath on this one; it's a few decades away.|
I-26 | I-40 | 240
| I-73 | I-74 | I-77
| I-277 | I-85 | I-485
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