This report is from a weekend trip to the 2004 Charlotte, NC 'roadgeek meet', during the second weekend in October, 2004.
Some notes from the trip down to Charlotte and back:
- First noticed this a few weeks ago, and subsequently investigated it on the return trip Sunday, but it seems VDOT has converted "vanilla" US 258 around Franklin (via US 58 and former VA 260) into TRUCK US 258. TRUCK banners have sprouted up on all but 3 or 4 of the US 258 shields. BUSINESS US 258 still remains through town.
- On both the trip out and the return trip, no cops in Emporia. However, on both trips there was one sitting in the median just west of the Greensville/Southampton County line. The county line is on a small hill, and they were set up just over the hill looking at the folks coming from the east. A county sheriff's deputy on the way out and a state trooper on my return trip. Didn't bother with folks going in the low-60s (like me)...but Friday the deputy bagged a girl in a blue Focus who'd passed me going at least 70 not a half-mile previously.
- Two notes with the Clarksville bypass. First, work is underway on the bridge deck for the long bridge over Kerr Reservoir, although there's one section that still has not had I-beams placed. At their present rate and with good weather this winter, it could be open sometime in the spring, but early summer is more realistic.
- Also, it looks like the section west of US 15 is now open. Barricades were removed and signage was up for the ramps to/from the west at US 15, although I didn't travel the bypass itself.
- The BUSINESS US 29/US 158 duplex near Reidsville, NC is an interesting oddity. An old-style 2-lane town bypass (the original US 29 bypass of Reidsville) with no access control but a few small interchanges nonetheless. The US 158/NC 14 duplex is 5 lanes from US 29 to BUSINESS US 29...the '04 NC map doesn't indicate that it is multilane.
- US 158/US 220 is a diamond interchange with the ramps favoring US 158.
- Noticed a new-looking Sheetz at the US 158/NC 66 intersection. From here down to Green-40, US 158 could stand to be 4 lanes...a lot of traffic for a 2-lane road.
- Green-40 is under reconstruction in eastern Winston-Salem...traffic is down to a single lane each way for a stretch (going west the construction zone ends before M.L.King Dr, just east of US 52). A minor slowdown, but otherwise traffic wasn't too bad at 6pm.
- The loop from Green-40 to US 158 West (Exit 3B) has a 30 MPH advisory speed which is a rare case where it should be LESS...perhaps 25 MPH or even 20. Was hard taking the loop at 30, even in a mid-size car like a Corolla.
- NCDOT usually does a good job with signage. One of the exceptions was US 64 through the middle of Statesville. Signage was considerably lacking through the city.
- While enroute to grab Alexander County, I noticed that US 64 was a very nice highway from just northwest of I-40 in Statesville to just west of Taylorsville. This section could be considered Super-2 expressway...very good engineering with gentle curves, no private access that I could see, and turn lanes at all intersections. The junction with NC 16 is an ad-hoc "interchange" (complete with exit numbers), but functions more like a pair of right-in/right-outs on each side with access roads up to NC 16.
- Most of NC 127 through Alexander County is very narrow twisty 2-lane road. Once across the Catawba River into Hickory, it opens up into a 5-lane, mostly 45 MPH boulevard for the whole trip through Hickory. No access at I-40, though...too close to US 321. Interchange at US 321, though, and that's how access is made to I-40.
- Major disappointment: most maps, including the official NC map, show US 321 as freeway all the way down to I-85. Isn't the case, though...the first mile or so north of I-85 has traffic signals and commercial access.
Saturday morning, Billy Riddle and I took a trip out to western NC/SC to view the sights and nab a few stubborn counties while we were waiting for the meet.
- On westbound US 74 at one of the interchanges near Kings Mountain (BUS US 74), a US 74 cutout exists and is posted on top of the exit guide signage. Unfortunately, it was too early in the morning to get a pic.
- An interesting mainline/service road setup in Shelby. That said, the traffic signals were a pain. Shelby can join the ranks of Indian Trail, Monroe, Marshville, and Wadesboro for towns that could use a US 74 freeway bypass.
- Saw a nice sunrise while along US 74 somewhere in Polk County. Speaking of Polk County, the exits along US 74 in that county have exit numbers.
- At the exits along I-26, "OLD EXIT xx" banners have been added to both guide signage and the exit gores, signifying the change in exit numbers and mileposts due to the I-26 extension.
- A few maps (notably RMcN) show NC 225 as a freeway between I-26 and US 25. Isn't the case. From what I could tell, it's a 2-lane expressway with an interchange at US 176 (and an old SC-style US 176 shield on one of the guide signs). Another interchange at US 25 which, curiously, had exit numbers (presumably US 25's exit mileage).
- Was pleasantly surprised to see this short US 25 freeway being signed for 65 MPH. Unfortunately the freeway ends just north of the state line. There's a long downhill grade after entering South Carolina.
- US 25/SC 11 was grade seperated with an access road connecting the two. Wish more DOTs did this...provides the benefits of grade seperation without the cost of a full interchange.
- SC 11 was a fairly good road out to US 178. West of US 276, attempts were being made to widen the shoulders for bicycle use. Just west of US 276, it appears based on signage that SC 8 ends while duplexed with SC 11.
- At US 178/SC 11, a sign warns truckers that US 178 is a winding road and "Not Recommended for Large Trucks". Was certainly the case. Very windy and hilly. Fortunately, there was very little traffic. On the SC side near the state line was a granite marker for the "Moorefield Memorial Highway". Charles Moorefield was the SC state highway engineer from 1920 to 1935.
- Crossed into North Carolina and Transylvania County, the last county I needed to "clinch" North Carolina. Just north was one of two crossings of the Eastern Continental Divide, this particular one at an elevation of 2,694 feet.
- Some older maps show US 64 as still going through Rosman. Based on the pavement, looks like it was rerouted outside of town 5-10 years ago. US 178 (which ends at US 64) uses what might have been part of old US 64 after taking a few turns in town.
- US 64 is rather narrow for being such a busy road...can only imagine how things were back when it was a "main drag". NC 281 south into SC was much better engineered.
- The US 123 freeway between Clemson and Easley is definately old-style. No paved shoulders and short on/off-ramps.
- A lane closure for a southbound resurfacing project northeast of Greenville on I-85 had traffic backed up a considerable distance.
We made it back to Gastonia in time for the meet (in fact, we beat Adam Prince and his entourage by about 15 minutes) and sampled the fare of R.J. Gators (the alligator quesadillas were...interesting) then sampled some of Mecklenburg County's fare..an old weigh station on US 29/74 near the Catawba River, progress on I-485 construction in the northwest corner (including the completed roundabouts at the future Moores Chapel Rd interchange, and progress on the north end of the I-77 widening project (including the future I-77/I-485 interchange).
After the meet on the return trip to Raleigh, I checked out a few Charlotte area sights and helped Brian Polidoro bag a few more NC counties.
- Someone on the skyscraperpage.com forum suggested that NC 16 be upgraded to freeway as some sort of "northwest radial" freeway. While NC 16 is generally expressway between I-85 and future I-485 and could fairly easily be upgraded, the I-85 interchange (currently a SPUI) and the section from there down to the start of the Brookshire Freeway would require some additional ROW and business takings.
- Did one loop around downtown Charlotte on I-277/I-77, then headed out the Independence "freeway", where the actual freeway section ended a lot sooner than I expected it to...just before Briar Creek Rd and the Merchendise Mart. Noted that, once the construction out to NC 24/27 is completed, this section of US 74 from the end of the freeway out to NC 24/27 could be considered "Jersey freeway" (or a median-barriered urban expressway for those who don't know what a Jersey freeway is or don't like the term).
- Too many traffic signals and commercial accesses heading out to I-485. Unfortunately, any sort of decent upgrade would require some healthy ROW takings...
- Judicious use of the NC DeLorme allowed us to sidetrack to get Anson County then use backroads to make the connection from NC 218 to US 52.
- Though it was getting dark by this time, noted construction on the US 220 freeway extension into Richmond County (Future I-73/I-74). NC 73 will be bridged over the future freeway and have an interchange. Work was underway on the bridge and nearby grading.
Sunday morning was spent on a leisurely ride back to Virginia Beach, picking up additional US highway mileage on US 401 and US 158, and completely "clinching" US 158 as well.
- US 401 could stand to be 4-laned from the end of the 6-lane section near the Neuse River up to at least Rolesville, if not NC 96 or NC 98.
- US 401 through Louisburg, along the NC 56 duplex, is 5 lanes.
- Took an interesting ride along the "Old Macon Highway" (precursor to today's US 158) from Macon to near Vaughan. This roadway runs along the north side of an abandoned rail line that used to run from Norlina to Roanoke Rapids (part of the ROW for this was used to build the US 158 bypass of Warrenton). Part of the roadway east of Macon is still gravel.
- Took a side trip up through Lake Gaston, utilizing the NC 903 crossing to cross the lake. Noted a relatively new Food Lion where NC 903 makes one of its turns onto a different roadway....presumably to serve Lake Gaston tourists/cabin-dwellers/etc.
- Rolled into Emporia on SR 627, which is wider and in better condition than your typical Virginia secondary route.
- Noted that the speed limit on the Halstead Blvd Extension into Elizabeth City is still 50 MPH.
- US 158 east of Elizabeth City was thick with tourist-type traffic. A drawbridge lift in Elizabeth City added a few minutes to the trip.
- Came back from there via NC 343 to US 17. Except for the southern 1.5 miles, paving is underway on the 4-laning project in Chesapeake. Its possible parts of the project could be open this winter, and perhaps the whole thing by summer.
- As I mentioned on another thread, a Steel Bridge (US 17/Dominion Blvd over the Intracoastal Waterway) opening had traffic backed up almost to VA 165/Cedar Rd. Due to this (which in the best of circumstances makes for a 15 minute delay), I opted for a way home via Great Bridge, which allowed me to see the new 5-lane drawbridge there.
In the end, I "clinched" US 158 and added 3 counties, "clinching" North Carolina (my 10th clinched state). Also a good meet.
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