Today's Raleigh N&O's Road Worrier column is devoted to driver confusion caused by the re-signing along Greensboro freeways due to I-40 being put back on its old alignment:
In the article an NCDOT traffic engineer, Kelvin Jordan, admits the I-40 East interchange with I-73 on the west side of town is confusing with those needing to stay on I-40 having to exit the main highway. However, since the interchange was designed when I-40 was to use the Loop, it's understandable. He also says that NCDOT is considering removing the Business 85 designation through Greensboro in the future as well. From the article:
"Getting through Greensboro will be easier now, Jordan said, with just one I-40 and no Business 40.
But DOT may never finish trying to untangle Greensboro's Urban Loop.
There are more plans to simplify markers at the three main approaches to the city. And there's still the confusion of two freeways called 85. DOT could decide one day to get rid of Business 85, too.
'I won't say that change won't come at some point," Jordan said. "That is something we will look at, but it won't be changed in the next year or two.'"See the URL for the entire article.
I was interviewed for the piece and suggested they should have given Business 85 perhaps a 3di number, in the first place since having two highways with the same number, is naturally confusing. I guess I wasn't confused enough as a driver to be quoted for the article, however.
Business 85 was conceived when I-85 and I-40 were to use the Loop, leaving the freeway east of Death Valley with no designation. With the I-40 re-routing this is no longer the case and only adds another route between the US 29 and I-40 interchanges which, even with the rerouting of US 421 is still also I-40, US 29, US 70 and US 220. South of the I-40 split the Business 85 route does have other designations, US 29/70, for the three miles or so back to I-85.
The questions I would ask are: if an NCDOT traffic engineer is mentioning removing Business 85 sometime in the future, why was this not thought of, or thought of and not done, at the same time they were (I guess they still are) re-signing the original I-40 route? Isn't the new NCDOT supposed to be more efficient and cost sensitive?
My solution would try to solve two problems with one new route number and possibly provide NCDOT with additional money in the process. The 2 biggest with how the highways are signed now are that people are supposedly confused due to the two 85 routes, and drivers are also confused about how to get to US 220 South (Future I-73) from I-85 North. You can't get there on the I-85 Loop but have to exit onto Business 85 travel a mile or so north and then take the US 220 South exit. I would remove the Business 85 designation completely through Greensboro, I would then replace it south of US 220 with a new 3di, I-273 (To I-73, too obvious?) which would travel with US 29/70 to the US 220 exit and then back south on US 220 to the Loop and I-73. NCDOT could then claim interstate maintenance money for the route like they did by putting I-40 on its original alignment. As to the argument that the route is not up to modern interstate standards, so are parts of I-40 through Death Valley, yet the FHWA let NCDOT move I-40 back anyway. The Business 85 part was also marked as I-85 for decades.
Trying to figure out why NCDOT does the things it does is sometimes frustrating, but it always makes life interesting for those interested in roads in North Carolina.
The sign heading to Greensboro from I-85 should read "I-685 North, US 29 North, US 70 East (TO US 220 South/I-73 South)
BUT the one thing of all.. they should have signed I-73 along US 220 anyways (even if some stretch is not interstate standards)
Also in looking at the traffic cameras on the I-85 portion, I believe that one of the former green signs that had both I-40 and I-85 on it, now just has a centered I-85. I guess they decided not to waste the signage already up there by replacing it with a stand alone I-85 shield on a signpost.