The Baffling Beltline
A Photo Essay of the Raleigh Beltline's Colorful Past

Ahhhh....the Beltline.  One of my favorite roads.  Anyone who has visited, moved, lived briefly, or is a lifetime resident of the Triangle has stories to tell about the Beltline.  Whether it's construction, traffic, INNER/OUTER, or the surprising beauty of the highway in North Raleigh the Beltline is a highway one doesn't forget.  For myself, I love the road.  Remember I grew up in Pittsburgh; they'd kill for it up there.

The Cliff Benson Beltline and Tom Bradshaw Freeway, as portions of the Beltline are named, have undergone several changes since the early 1980's.  Amazingly, since the last route reorganization on the Beltline, there are numerous remnants of old Beltline signage around.  To start off this page will document the erroneous leftover signage on the Beltline and where they are located.  There's a lot more than you think!

Soon, more numeration changes will come to the Beltline.  The southern portion of the Beltline, which currently carries both I40 and I-440, will see I-440 removed from I-440 to US 1/64.  The infamous 'Inner' & 'Outer' designations will also be removed.  The section of I-440 that will remained signed will revert back to 'East' (formerly 'Inner') and 'West' (formerly 'Outer').  Also, when the US 64 Knightdale Bypass opens in 2005, US 64 will be routed for one less mile on the Beltline.


Beltline - 1982
In 1982, the lower half of the Beltline, which would carry I-40, was not complete.  US 70 and NC 50 was routed on Wilmington St., Western Blvd. and onto then North Blvd. (now Capital) and along the Beltline to Glenwood Avenue.
Beltline - 1985
The lower Beltline was opened in 1984 and routing changes were made instantly.  US 64 moved to the lower half of the loop.  US 70/401 and NC 50 now followed South Saunders Street and then was routed along the Beltline to Capital (US 401) and Glenwood (US 70 / NC 50)
Beltline - 1993
In 1991, I-440 made its way to the Beltline and for awhile there was some sense to the road.  US 70/NC 50 was moved onto its current route through Downtown Raleigh and Glenwood Avenue.  Although the map shows otherwise, US 64 NEVER did move back inside the Beltline along New Bern Ave. and Western Blvd. (1)  US 401; however, did return inside the Beltline along Saunders St. and Capital Blvd.
Beltline - 2002
The Beltline of today is slightly different than the 1993 version.  US 64 was moved back onto the southern route in the mid 90s.  The Beltline's one permanent fixture since day one, US 1, remains on the North and West quadrants from Capital Blvd. to Exit 1 in Cary.  US 70/401 and NC 50 remain inside the loop on the same routes as 1993. 

Photos - Leftovers and Sign Revisions:

I-440 (Outer Beltline) approaching I-40 (Exits 1-B) in Cary.  Known as the Beltline to Beltline Interchange, to remain on the Beltline you must exit the highway (Exit 1A).  The sign combination included a US 64 shield along with 'TO' US 70 and NC 50 shields.  Also, as the Beltline is routed now, the left half of the sign is without the I-440 and US 64 shields that are routed with Interstate 40 East.  Photo taken by Chris Curley.
On the opposite side of the Beltline near Garner, stands this leftover of how the Beltline was signed in the 1980s.  Located where I-40 West joins the Beltline (Exit 301), the US 70 West and NC 50 south shields are no longer needed as both routes are now routed through town.  An I-440 Inner Beltline sign could be included, but with the planned subtraction of the route from the lower half of the Beltline, if the shield was added now it would still be up ten years later.  Photo taken by Chris Curley.
This is a great leftover example of one of the many former routings of the Beltline.  Located on I-40 East at US 70/401/ NC 50 near Garner.  The South Saunders Street interchange (Exits 298A-B) is in need of a sign overhauls.  S. Saunders Street now carries US 70/401 and NC 50, and has since the early 1990s.  The state does plan a sign overhaul when the lower Beltline is rehabbed and the I-440 designation is removed.  Nonetheless, this is a great look at the Beltline's numeration past. Photo taken by Chris Curley.
At the US 64/264 Interchange with the Beltline, there is even more insight to the roadway's past.  For a brief time, I-440 used North and South designations, only to be changed to the 'Inner' & 'Outer' designation, we are all familiar with today.  Another interesting aspect is the missing shield next to the 'WEST' for New Bern Avenue guide sign.  US 64 had returned to New Bern Avenue during the mid-1990s, only to be moved back onto the Lower Beltline.  The left most guide sign shows the new route of US 64 West.  Photo taken by Alex Nitzman.
This sign was located on outbound Western Blvd. approaching the Beltline.  This was a left over of the pre I-440 days when only US 1 was signed on the upper Beltline.  By 2003, this sign was upgraded with an Interstate 440 shield placed below the Right Lane sign.  Photo taken by Jeremy P.

Virtual Drive:

I-440 West at the still under construction interchange with the Knightdale Bypass, US 64 (Exit 14).  The bypass , which is now scheduled to open in the summer of 2005, will complete a US 64 freeway from Raleigh (I-440) to I-95 and points further east.  The prior alignment of US 64 will become Business US 64 (Exit 13A-B) once the bypass is opened to traffic. Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
I-440 West (Outer Beltline) with the ramps for the interchange with the Knightdale Bypass (Exit 14) in the background.  The guide sign is for Exit 13A-B New Bern Ave. which until the opening of the bypass carries US 64 and US 264.  Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
I-440 West (Outer Beltline) at the Wake Forest Road Interchange (Exit 10).  Wake Forest Road at one time was US 1 and US 1A.   The interchange is one of many that the Beltline has with many important North Raleigh feeder roads.  Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
I-440 West (Outer Beltline) at Glenwood Ave (Exits 7A-B).  For years this was where US 70 West and NC 50 North would leave the Beltline and head towards Durham and Creedmoor.  In the early 1990s, both routes were moved inside the Beltline and returned to Glenwood Avenue.  The first exit (7B) leads immediately to Crabtree Valley Mall, one of the more popular shopping centers in the Triangle.  Photo taken by Chris Curley.
I-440 West (Outer Beltline) at Wade Avenue (Exits 4A-B).  Wade Ave. is an interesting east-west highway, it connects the city to I-40 and the airport by way of rolling hills and older neighborhoods inside the Beltline.  The Extension (Exit  4B) is a freeway that connects the Beltline to I-40, in fact at one time Wade Ave. Extension was I-40.  Exit 4B also leads many fans and visitors to the ESA (now RBC Center) and Carter-Finley Stadium via an interchange with Edwards Mill Road. Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
The latest addition to Beltline scenery is the bike/pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway at the Wade Ave. Interchange.  This bridge that connects the NC Museum of Art  to the campus of Meredith College was in the final stages of construction when this photo was taken in March 2005.  The bridge open to public use the following month.  Photo take by Doug Kerr.
What is reported to be the future end of I-440 West, or so they say in a few years.  This is known in some circles as the 'Beltline-to-Beltline' interchange.  To stay on the Outer Beltline, which will pick up I-40 West at this point, one must exit the highway (Exit 1) to stay on it.  US 1/64 continues towards Apex, Cary, and points south.  Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
I-40 East leaves the Beltline at Exit 301.  In the future, this will also be where I-440 West will begin.  Currently, I-440 is signed on the lower half of the Beltline. Photo taken by Brent White.
I-40 heads southeast towards Benson and Wilmington while I-440 continues straight ahead.  Although the Exit 301 guide sign reads 'TO' US 64, US 64 East is signed along this part of the Beltline.  Photo taken by Doug Kerr.
The first I-40 West/I-440 and US 64 West shield combination on the Inner Beltline.  In the near future, this will only be I-40 West and US 64 West as I-440 will only be routed on the top half of the beltline. Photo taken by Doug Kerr.

If you have photos of incorrect or correct Beltline signage, I'd be more than happy to have them on this photo essay.  E-mail me at this address

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  • Sources & Links:

  • The Raleigh Beltline @ Wake Country Roads ---Brian LeBlanc
  • Interstate 40 @ ---Matt Steffora
  • Interstate 440 @ ---Matt Steffora
  • I-440 @ ---Scott Oglesby
  • (1) Rhodes, S.D. "Re: Thanks Again." Personal e-mail, March 28, 2004.


    Page Created: May 14, 2001
    Last Updated: April 29, 2005

    (C) 2001-06 Adam Prince