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I-485 sends newcomers (and others, too) driving around in circles

I hate Interstate 485, and I don't think I'm the only one.

I've lived here five years, and the loop that rings Charlotte makes no sense to me. Sometimes the signs say north or south, but my MapQuest directions say I need to be traveling east or west. And other times the signs say inner loop or outer loop. I could pull over and figure it out but I usually end up calling my husband, who totally gets I-485.

During our recent gas shortage I mistakenly got on the wrong loop of I-485 and wasted about 20 minutes worth of time and fuel. I was trying to go from Steele Creek to Ballantyne. MapQuest directed me to I-485 East. But my choices: North or South. I called a friend. She said to go North. Wrong. But at least I'm not the only one who is confused.

I looked up a story my newcomer beat predecessor Leigh Dyer wrote about confusion on I-485. She advised to think of I-485 as the face of a clock – “inner” being the lanes closest to uptown that go clockwise. It's how you would travel from University City to Matthews, for example. The “outer” loop lanes are those farthest from uptown that go counterclockwise. When I was going the right way from Steele Creek to Ballantyne, I was on the outer loop.

There's no good way to direct drivers on a loop as directions change. But consistent signage – either north, south, east and west or inner and outer – would help.

If you have a trick to remembering how to travel on I-485, please share it by e-mailing me at my address below. I'm sure plenty of newcomers and not-so-newcomers (like me) would appreciate it.