Known as the Cliff Benson Beltline, Interstate 440 forms the northern two thirds of the 25.2-mile long Raleigh beltway. The 1960s-built 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. The freeway meets Interstate 495 west of Knightdale, where U.S. 64 combines with the beltline south back to I-40.
AASHTO approved the numbering of Interstate 40 from an application by the state of North Carolina on June 9, 1991. Interstate 440 replaced Business Loop I-40 along the Cliff Benson Beltline, which was officially decommissioned by AASHTO at the same time.
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.
One of the former inner/outer trailblazers posted along Interstate 440. These were mostly removed by 2009 with I-440 resigned as an east-west route. Photo taken 07/12/05.
Prior to the designation of Interstate 440 along the Cliff Benson Beltline, U.S. 1, U.S. 64, U.S. 70 and North Carolina 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 led NCDOT to restore portions of the routes back through the city center in 1991, including U.S. 70, U.S. 401 and NC 50.1
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 According to Brian LeBlanc’s former Wake County Roads web site, sign changes were made by 2009.