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Who you callin' useless?

What do all these roads have in common?
  • US 264 in Wake County
  • US 258 in Onslow County
  • US 117 in Wilson County
  • US 311 in Rockingham County
  • NC 39 in Johnston County
They all have what roadgeeks call "useless multiplexes" -- a road that ends at a random point while sharing pavement with another road, and North Carolina seems to have more useless multiplexes than most states. For example, 264 east of Raleigh is routed along the US 64 freeway between Zebulon and the Beltline, but at the Beltline 264 ends while 64 continues. Why couldn't 264 just end at 64 in Zebulon where the two roads merge? (And to make it even more ridiculous, that's exactly what it did until about 1995!)

I think I finally figured out why these useless multiplexes exist, and they most certainly aren't useless. Look at a map and you'll notice that all of these roads go somewhere -- or, more to the point, they connect two places. And it makes it a hell of a lot easier to give directions when you only have to follow one road.

For example, do you need to head from Raleigh to Wilson or Greenville? Take US 264. Coming south on I-95 and need to get to Goldsboro? US 117's your ticket. US 258 connects Jacksonville and Kinston, and US 311 does the same between Winston-Salem and Eden (or it would if the signage would catch up with the map). Traffic that's going between those cities probably doesn't care that the road they're following is also US 64, 264, NC 24 or NC 135, much the same that traffic on I-85 from Charlotte to Durham doesn't care that I-40's also on the road for 40 miles or so.

It doesn't apply to absolutely everything. The formerly- (and still largely-) useless multiplex of NC 24 and 27 connects so many different places to Charlotte that it's pretty pointless; the only people that would use one road but not the other would be NC 24 traffic from Fayetteville to Charlotte, all 141 miles of it. Likewise, I'm not sure too much traffic heads from Eden to...well, wherever NC 700 ends, and NC 902 in Chatham County literally connects Pittsboro to nowhere. But overall, those useless multiplexes might not be so useless the next time you have to give directions to someone who does best only following one road.

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