DOT to replace signs on Raleigh's Beltline

Posted July 23, 2009

— The Inner and Outer Beltline designations for parts of Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 in Raleigh will soon be no more.

The Department of Transportation will begin next month a $49 million widening project on a 6.2-mile stretch of I-40 that will include revising signs for I-440 with east and west designations.

The new interstate route numbering is meant to help ease motorist confusion about travel on the Beltline.

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

Does Raleigh's Beltline baffle you? DOT to retire Inner, Outer beltine designations

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."

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

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

DOT engineers said they do not know exactly when the signs will be replaced. The widening project – from west of Wade Avenue to east of the Jones Franklin Road crossover – is expected to be complete in 2011.

The roadway improvements – designed to ease bottlenecking in the area – include adding a 12-foot lane and a 12-foot shoulder in each direction of I-40 and expanding the interstate from four to six lanes.

The new shoulders will be built to the same depth as the roadway, which will allow for easier expansion of the highway in the future.

The bridges carrying I-40 over Wade Avenue and U.S. 1/64 will also be widened so they will have the capacity for eight lanes.


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  • killerkestrel Jul 27, 2009

    buzzcub, I-440 is currently labeled as a circle. But they are going to change the section that runs with I-40 to just I-40, and have the east, north, and west sections labled as I-440.

    I never had much trouble wiht the inner and outer beltline labeling. Clockwise and counterclockwise. And I don't visit Raleigh much, though I did live there while in college.

    And the comments about widening it, yes it has been needed for quite a while, but funding is short. Yes there is waste, but much of that comes from the legislators, and not the engineers. Funding has stayed flat, while costs have about doubled over the last six years.

  • buzzcub Jul 24, 2009

    ".. I don't think the North/South/East/West thing works well when traveling in a circle." - spaten

    I-440 is not a circle. It is merely a by-pass, starting from I-40 in SE Raleigh and loops around in a westerly direction in a arch through North Raliegh and down US 1 and terminating at I-40 in Cary. That is a one of the contributing factors in the confusion. It should be correctly labled as I-440 East/West.

  • Bendal1 Jul 24, 2009

    This change has been in the works for years; they were waiting for another project to add the new signs to so the overall cost wouldn't be so high. I-440 will run from I-40 at Cary to where I-40 splits off towards Garner, around the north side of town. An 'east' and 'west' designation works a lot better for that than an "inner" and "outer" description.

    Plus, there's been so many people moving here in the last 15 years that the number of people who know I-440 as "the Beltline" is rapidly becoming a minority.

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Jul 24, 2009

    To me, the issue isn't Inner or Outer. What I sometimes still struggle with (I've been in Raleigh since 1994) is which way do I want to go? If I'm on say Six Forks and I want to get to Capital, do I want the Inner or the Outer loop.

    What would really help are signs telling people (especially visitors) what the next 3 exits are in either direction. At least this gives them a fighting chance…

  • spaten Jul 24, 2009

    I thought is was a very understandable concept to put the inner and outer designators up for travel around the beltline .. I don't think the North/South/East/West thing works well when traveling in a circle.

  • 8675309-9 Jul 24, 2009

    wow, i didnt realize inner and outer beltline has been so hard to understand, i understood the concept as a kid, but i guess being from up north we were used to having big roads and highways before moving to cary.

    kind of pathetic, its as simple as left and right. where is downtown in reference to where you are on the beltline?

    to the right? Yayyyyy inner beltline!

    to the left? Yaaayyyyy outer beltline

    With that said, i am all for changing it so giving people directions that are not from the area is easier.

  • showed up late Jul 24, 2009

    The stretch they are widening is one of the first to open, lo those many years ago. I have never had a problem with any designation that has been on (what is now known as) the beltline signage over the last 35 years. In fact, cannot specifically recall the last time I even needed to look at the signs, other than speed limit.

  • cf8620318 Jul 24, 2009

    wtliftr....I-540 cannot get an even number start digit until it connects to a full-fledged interstate at two points....i.e. when it gets extended from US 64 Byp to I-40 east of Raleigh. At that point, it will be renamed I-640, confusing everyone even more. Of course, by THAT time, it will probably all be called NC-640 and have tolls the whole way around.

  • andyasumtneer Jul 24, 2009

    wtliftr... I-540 is signed as such because it only has one termini at this date in time (I-40 near the airport). The other termini is at US 64. When I-540 is completed to the eastern end near Johnston County (whether that is from US 64 or NC 55), it will then be signed as I-640. A good example in this state where a beltway does meet the criteria is I-240 in Asheville. BTW, don't hold your breath on the completion of I-640, it is still years in the future (2030 according to CAMPO). See:

  • buzzcub Jul 24, 2009

    Yes, if you live here, you would know that "outer loop" is the east to west direction while the "inner loop" is the west to east direction on I-440. Out of town traffic would be confused about the direction they want to go, since the signs offer none.

    I never understood why people want to refer the same highway as both inner and outer. It should always be either East/West or North/South because that is the general direction traffic is flowing. Now, if we start referring to I-540 as the outer loop and 440/40 as the inner loop, then the logic makes sense (assuming 540 is completed).

    Everyone will have their own opinions, but I believe the DOT is making a good decision to change the signs so it is consistent with other interstate signage in this country.