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North Carolina to petition AASHTO for Interstate 295 designation (again...for like the third or fourth time)

The semi-annual American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) meeting is being held next week in Atlanta.  And with this meeting is another round of state petitions for highway designation changes, additions, and deletions.  Requests from North Carolina are typically on the agenda for every meeting.

This year is no different - as North Carolina is petitioning for the designation of Interstate 295 and Future Interstate 295 for the Fayetteville Outer Loop.  You may be wondering - wasn't this done before - maybe a few times before.  Hell, I've lost count.

So what is going on here - and if Interstate 295 was approved over a decade ago why did they take the I-295 signs down in the first place?
Taken in 2007, could I-295 shields be returning to the Fayetteville Outer Loop?

Well - it's complicated.  The first numbering request for the Fayetteville Outer Loop was made in 2003, and the highway was asked to be signed as Interstate 195.  It was rejected - as AASHTO said hey you are going to built this as a full loop one day why don't you try something like 295.  So two years later, when the highway was extended east to connect with Interstate 95 (Exit 58), NCDOT went back to AASHTO and said hey let's try this again as Interstate 295.  AASHTO approved and pretty much that was that.  Signs went up like the one above, and hey, NC had another Interstate.

By 2016, the Outer Loop was now known as NC Highway 295

Well, around 2014 is when all this confusion kicked in.  As NCDOT began to extend the Outer Loop westwards towards the All-American Freeway.  Signage plans revealed that the highway would be signed as NC 295 and not as Interstate 295.  An oversight maybe, after all it seemed like no one ever could agree on what number it should be.  But when NC replaced the Interstate 295 shields on signs along Interstate 95 around the same time - it was generally considered that because of various parts of the highway that did or may not meet full Interstate standards caused the Interstate status to go away. Two examples were the lack of shoulders on the bridge crossing the Cape Fear River and the lack of a direct freeway to freeway connection from I-95 North to I-295.

The left hand turn from Interstate 95 North onto I-295 is a possible reason why I-295 lost its shield. (Google Maps)
So let's fast forward to the present, and North Carolina's current application for Interstate and Future Interstate 295.  First, the Interstate 295 request is for the segment of highway that is currently open from Interstate 95 to the All-American Freeway.  The state argues in its petition that "[t]his section of roadway meets interstate standards and is currently open to traffic."  Further, they note that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had approved designation of this route as Future I-295 in November 2003. 
(Source: AASHTO)
The request for the Future I-295 designation is from US 401 (Raeford Road) south to Interstate 95 near St. Pauls.  I guess those are the next sections to open and won't be connected to the north end of the highway so they are going with Future.

So then why did they take the Interstate 295 signs down in the first place?  It the thought was because the highway didn't meet Interstate standards was correct, then why would have the FHWA approved the highway in 2003?  They must have agreed it was up to standard, right?

And could AASHTO reject the designation? Sure, they could, but they are not the ones to judge if the highway meets standard.  They are really in place more for an approval of a route designation.  And besides, they are too worried about the proper spacing format in an application.

(Source: AASHTO)
The Special Committee on US Route Numbering meets in Atlanta next week.  We should get an answer on Interstate 295's third at bat sometime in October.

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