Inner? Outer? Beltline confusion ends soon

Posted August 25, 2008

— Drivers no longer have to picture themselves on a clock face as they travel around downtown Raleigh, the N.C. Department of Transportation said Monday. The Inner and Outer Beltline designations for parts of Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 are being retired.

The loop around downtown has had various names and numbers since construction began in the 1960s. It was re-named I-440 in 1996.

Since that time, the lanes that travel clockwise have been called the "Inner Beltline," while the lanes that travel counter-clockwise are labeled "Outer Beltline." It's easy to see why on a map, but harder to visualize when wedged in a line of traffic.

DOT will begin work on new signage as soon as this fall as part of a larger contract to replace signs along the route.

The eight miles where I-40 and I-440 overlap from Exit 293 to Exit 301 will be re-labled simply as I-40, as seen in the map below.

The rest of the current loop will continue to carry the I-440 label. While drivers in both directions will head north to get where they are going, the road will simply be labeled I-440, either east or west.


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  • -Enter Screen Name- Aug 27, 2008

    @CuriousT (and maybe others): The designation has nothing to do with a clock face. I don't know why it was mentioned in the article.

    Think of the beltline as two circles, one drawn inside the other. The circle on the inside is the Inner Beltline, the circle on the outside is the Outer Beltline.

    The direction of travel has nothing to do with the designation of Inner or Outer. Simply by the fact that we drive on the right side of the road, the Inner beltline has a clockwise direction of travel. If we drove on the left side of the road, the Inner beltline would be counter-clockwise. We wouldn't name the outer circle the Inner beltline because of its different direction.

  • CU Chemist Aug 27, 2008

    What was most confusing to me was when the Inner/Outer signs were only a few yards from the actual exit as opposed to being on all the overhead green signs. Now what will be confusing is that the old Inner is 40W/440E and the old Outer is 40E/440W... wait anyone with half a brain can figure that out!! It won't be that difficult, but I'll miss Inner/Outer...

  • phigamm4everncsu Aug 26, 2008

    I am sorry to see the inner/outer designation go. Sadly, the designations were one of the smartest things that the NCDOT had ever done. A circular highway cannot be signed with cardinal directions. DUH!!!!!!! Where would one direction stop and the other begin? The DOT got lucky in this case because 440 could easily be made into a loop instead of a belt by ditching the co-sign with 40 around the southern side of town. When 540 (or 640 as it SHOULD be called) is completed into a full belt they won't be able to use this crutch.

  • Bob Sidel Aug 26, 2008

    southerners have a hard time driving and reading, why is it a suprise that this terminology perplexed them.

  • Pseudonym Aug 26, 2008

    For all those confused by this, just wait until the Soliel Center is done. Then you can use it as a reference point from anywhere in the city.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Aug 26, 2008

    Like I've already said, the most efficient solution is to place signs indicating ALL roads are Northbound and the problem(s) will eventually go away.

  • Pineview Style Aug 26, 2008

    Man, what a bunch of nerds we have on this board. After reading these comments, I think I need a shot of whiskey. It seems likes most people here aren't even going to make an effort to familiarize themselves with the area. It's just easier to complain and wring their hands over the situation. You can name the outter beltline Fred and the inner Bob and still people would be still be like "I still can't figure out how to get to Crabtree from Capital??!!??"

    "That's right!! Don't be coming into our city and getting lost...that's OUR job. Now, do I live in North Raleigh or South Raleigh, or Outer Raleigh or Inner Raleigh? I'm gonna take an aspirin and worry about this tomorrow..." -Six String

    You forgot Mid-Town Raleigh. Gotcha covered!

  • Blueboxinggloves Aug 26, 2008

    Inner Beltline, Outer Beltline. Isn't the shortest distance between two points a straight line?

  • zeitghost Aug 26, 2008

    When I was learning to drive the 440, I had to keep a sticky note on the dash with the tricks I was trying to learn to keep it straight. They came down to clock references and I still catch myself saying 'the inner beltline is IN the clock so it's clockwise' and doing the accompanying hand motion.

  • imback Aug 26, 2008

    The Inner and Outer thing never made sense anyway. That implies there are 2 seperate beltlines. It's like saying you are driving the Inner 95. You know, the lane closer to the, um, capital...