Known as the Cliff Benson Beltline, Interstate 440 forms the northern two thirds of the 25.2 mile long Raleigh beltway. Built in the 1960s, the freeway winds northeast from I-40 near Lake Jackson to North Carolina State University and U.S. 70 by Crabtree Valley Mall. U.S. 1 accompanies the route east to Exit 11, as I-440 turns back south. I-87/U.S. 64 combine with I-440 from west of Knightdale south 2.70 miles to I-40 at Southeast Raleigh.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) submitted applications to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) ahead of the Spring 1999 meeting for an array of routes in the Raleigh urban area. Actions approved on June 9, 1991 established Interstate 440 along the Cliff Benson Beltline in conjunction with the elimination of I-40 Business and U.S. 70 Business and relocation for sections of U.S. 64, U.S. 70 and U.S. 401:
These several routes are presently assigned to various sections of the Raleigh Beltline thus creating a confusing signing arrangement. The relocation of the bulk of these US routes and the establishment of the Interstate route number for the entire facility will alleviate signing overload on the facility, and will facilitate map interpretation of the facility. A less confusing and resultant safter route numbering system will prevail, thus greatly benefitting the travelling public.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) previously approved the requested addition of 16.74 miles of the Raleigh Beltline to the Interstate System under 23 U.S.C. 139(a). The proposed Interstate 440 included an overlap with I-40 to form a full circumferential route around the city. Two exceptions for Interstate design standards were noted in a March 26, 1991 letter to NCDOT:
1. Bridge width of 28 feet for three sets of bridges located at Lake Boone Trail, Yadkin Drive, and Old Wake Forest Road. As you have agree, these bridges will be widening to full Interstate standards as part of the projects already scheduled between 1991 and 1995.
2 A paved right shoulder width of 4 feet on a usable shoulder width of 12 feet from the I-40 southwest junction to the Raleigh-Chapel Hill Expressway. As you have agreed, the shoulder will be improved to full Interstate standards when this portion of the Raleigh Beltline is reconstructed.
When Interstate 440 was first signed, it used cardinal directions based upon the direction of travel. So along the portion through the east side of Raleigh, I-440 used north/south banners, while the stretch to the north used east/west signage.1 The signing of I-440 was later changed to use an inner and outer orientation, similar to those found on the I-277 inner belt freeway around Downtown Charlotte and the I-485 beltway around Mecklenburg County.
Raleigh Beltline trailblazers were previously posted along Interstate 440 and along intersecting roads. These were mostly removed by 2009 when inner and outer direction banners for I-440 changed to east / west. 05/31/21
Prior to the designation of Interstate 440 along the Cliff Benson Beltline, U.S. 1, U.S. 64, U.S. 70 and NC 50 utilized portions of the freeway between Cary and the temporary east end at Poole Road. U.S. 401 was added to the route when the Tom Bradshaw Freeway (I-40) portion of the beltway was completed in 1984 as U.S. 64 shifted to the new I-40. Motorist confusion resulted and NCDOT resturned portions of the U.S. 70, U.S. 401 and NC 50 back through the city center in 1991.1
Plans announced in August of 2003 removed the I-440 designation from the concurrency with I-40 along the southern third of the Raleigh belt line while restoring cardinal (east-west) direction banners along the remainder of the route. The renumbering was reinforced by local references to the I-440 segment as the “Beltline” and the I-40/440 portion as simply “I-40”.2