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36 and 89 - NCDOT submits their applications for two new Interstates

Well when I made predictions for the designations of the two new North Carolina Interstate corridors a few months ago, I was way off.  NCDOT has formally requested Interstate 36 to be signed along the Super 70 Corridor and Interstate 89 for the Raleigh to Norfolk corridor.  The designations are pending AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) approval.  AASHTO meets in Des Moines, IA later this month.  The FHWA - to the best of our knowledge - has both requests under review.  Both numbers would be exceptions to the standard Interstate numbering grid set in the 1950s.

Interstate 36 will run North of Interstate 40.  Typically, a number higher that 40 would be assigned to this route (more on NCDOT's rationale in a moment). On the other hand, Interstate 89 has a number of exceptions. 1) It is a duplicate of Interstate 89 in Vermont and New Hampshire.  This does occur with other numbers so there is precedent.  2) Interstate 89 will run east of I-95 going against the aforementioned numbering grid.  3) The route is actually more east-west than north-south.  That's really my only objection to it.  Espescially when in 2012, North Carolina petitioned the FHWA for preliminary approval for Interstate 44 along the same corridor.

Friend of the blog, Adam Froehlig, wrote to NCDOT asking for some information in regards to the two requests - here's what they wrote:

This is in reference to your correspondence concerning recent Interstate request submittals to AASHTO from NCDOT. A great deal of thought went into the selection of the proposed Interstate numbers. We reviewed various 2 digit numbers; however, all had either conflicts with NC routes, VA routes or were utilized in other states.


The east west numbers that fell in the range between 40 and 64 had what we perceived as greater conflicts. The following routes were considered, but rejected due to the below reasons:
· 42 – has a State route that is a widely used in central and eastern NC
· 44 – received comments from people concerning 44 and confusing it with I- 440
· 46 – exists in both states, located in central NC
· 48 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 50 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 52 – NC and VA have a US route 52, but we prefer not to create other conflicts like 74
· 54 – has a State route used in central and eastern NC
· 58 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 60 – avoiding utilizing 60 as well as 50based on review by FHWA
· 62 – exists in both states, located in central NC, less likely to be confused; however; VA would like to avoid the potential confusion with 64.

We also reviewed the various north south numbers between 89 and 95.
· 87 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 89 – NC and VA have a state route, but they are located in the western parts of the state
· 91 – NC has a short section in the eastern portion of the state and VA has a route in the west
· 93 – NC and VA have a state route, but they are located in the western parts of the state

Interstate 89 was chosen due to the smaller amount of conflicts with other Interstates (85,95), US routes and NC routes. The even number routes did not appear to be fixable without creating conflicts with the current state routes.

We have received email correspondence from Virginia Department of Transportation indicating their support of the use of 89.

The Department will likely replace the 495 section and not continue it as aconcurrent route. We see opportunities to reduce the length of I-440 and possibly diminish some confusion on the 440 loop. We have not currently made this decision, but are considering the various alternatives.

Once the Department receives approval, we will follow the process required to place the appropriate signs. We would like to place the signs as soon as we are able.
For the 70 corridor, the number 36 appears to be the only number in the range that did not have a conflict. There are several examples across the country where the numbers are slightly out of order.

We are confident your community can appreciate the difficulty in attempting to find numbers that do not have state or multi-state conflicts. As we continue to add additional interstate routes, the supply of numbers will continue to diminish and simply end. Even the three digit numbers are becoming problematic in some instances. There are technically 50 numbers for north south and 50 numbers for east west highways, what are the realm of solutions for when you need 51 or more interstate highways? Will we duplicate more numbers? What about considering the geographic separation.? If there happens to be an Interstate 5 on the east coast, would anyone realistically become confused with the Interstate 5 on the west coast? As indicated previously, the Department took several scenarios into consideration and chose the number with the least amount of conflict.
Thank you for interest in the North Carolina highway system.

This great response from NCDOT explains why they chose 89 and their reasonings against the other numbers.  I think the state can redesignate routes they did as recently as 1979 when NC 277 in Gaston County became NC 279 when I-277 in Charlotte was approved. Also route number changes have occurred in the last two decades in the eastern part of the state.

AASHTO and the FHWA can reject the proposed numbers so we shall see in the next few weeks if 89 or 36 will stick.

But Adam's e-mail has some other information as for the signing of the two routes once a formal designation is approved.  NCDOT will request for permission to sign along both corridors (where they meet standards) as soon as a number is agreed upon.  So the US 70 Clayton Bypass should see Interstate shields by most likely 2017.  The same could occur for the US 70 Goldsboro Bypass.

If Interstate 89 is approved (or when another number is agreed upon), there may be a number of changes to existing Interstates in NC.  First, I-89 would be eligible to be signed along the entire Knightdale Bypass (US 64/264/I-495) - this would be out to Exit 429 (or 430) for Wendell Blvd./Business US 64 (or Rolesville Road).  This stretch of highway meets interstate standards as the current Interstate 495 designation indicates.  NCDOT will most likely (or from the e-mail definitely will) ditch the I-495 corridor from Raleigh to Rocky Mount in favor of the new number. Also, the 89 route will begin at I-40 at Exit 301 on the Raleigh Beltline creating an overlap with Interstate 440.  NCDOT is considering shortening I-440 to end at the current western terminus of the Knightdale Bypass (Exit 14). 

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