Triangle highway signs leave many confused

The ABC11 I-Team investigates signs that tell you you're driving one direction - when you're really going the opposite direction.
February 5, 2014 2:51:00 PM PST
Ever wonder why some signs in the Triangle tell you you're travelling in one direction when you're really going the other way? The signs don't agree with your GPS, or a map, and they leave a lot of drivers confused.

The ABC11 I-Team found an example on I-40 eastbound - leaving downtown Raleigh - heading toward the I-40 / Beltline split.

The sign says "440 West," but our GPS clearly showed we were going directly eastbound.

It's the same going the other direction. Signs say "I-440 East," but they quickly change to "I-40 West," as you drive toward downtown Raleigh. How can you be going east and west at the same time?

Drivers we spoke with think it's confusing.

"I think it's ridiculous. It's crazy because, if you're not familiar with the area and you're driving, it's just chaos. It's an accident waiting to happen," offered driver Lamont Nichols.

"I was coming that way the other day and got kind of confused," said Larry Ballard.

We asked Kevin Lacy with the North Carolina Department of Transportation why the signs say one thing when you're driving in a different direction - 180 degrees off what the signs say.

He explained it's all about your eventual destination.

"It's exactly what we told you because you're following the route," he said.

So even though you're driving on the 440-Beltline going east, then north, then west and south, the signs say "I-440 west" because the highway ends on the west side of Raleigh.

I-40 is another interesting example. The signs say "I-40 West" because the highway ends on the west coast in California - even though when you're driving from Wilmington to Raleigh you're driving due north.

And on I-85, the signs say "I-85 South" toward Atlanta, even though when you're driving from Durham to Greensboro, you're going due west.

The I-Team pointed out to the DOT that doesn't seem to make sense to people - the people who are using the highways.

"I'm not sure who you are talking to, but that's the national standard," said Lacy.

And does the standard make sense if people are confused?

"Well, we are not getting an overwhelming indication that people are confused," said Lacy.

And there are other Triangle signs that don't add up with your GPS. Take the Highway 55 exit from the Triangle Expressway. It says "55 East" takes you to Apex and "55 West" takes you to Durham.

But Highway 55 doesn't run east and west between Apex and Durham. It's directly north and south.

Some drivers told the I-Team they want the DOT to make signs less confusing.

"You need to tighten up on your job - do the right thing get it under control -because it's chaos out there," said Nichols.

But at DOT headquarters, they say sometimes when they do change signs it makes things worse, and there will always be someone who's a little confused by road signs.

"That is something you can bank on," said Lacy. "Just because you have a GPS please do not put your brain away."

Lacy said that 40-years ago, highway signs across the country did tell you the direction you were driving, but now that standard has changed to indicate the starting and ending point of a highway.

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