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Not sure where you are? The state’s new road map is here to help

The state has printed 1.25 million copies of the 2019-2020 transportation map.
The state has printed 1.25 million copies of the 2019-2020 transportation map. rstradling@newsobserver.com

To find out where they’re going, many people use GPS systems on their phones or in their cars. But to know where you are and what your options are for getting from one place to another, some people find it hard to beat a paper map.

That partly explains why the N.C. Department of Transportation has printed 1.25 million copies of the 2019-2020 state transportation map. That’s a half million fewer than the previous version, published two years ago, but still a sign that the old fashioned paper map remains indispensable for many people.

The new maps are available for free at welcome centers, rest areas and NCDOT offices across the state, as well as local visitors centers and chamber of commerce offices. Or, you can order one online at www.visitnc.com/travel-guides or by calling 800-847-4862.

The maps cost about 25 cents apiece to print, or about $310,000 altogether, said NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott.

The first state highway map was published in 1916 and then updated either annually or every other year. The last annual edition was in 2008.

Demand for the map has waned as people eschew paper for digital directions. NCDOT printed 2.25 million copies of the 2013-2014 edition and has dialed it back with each map since then.

And it’s not as if the maps become obsolete or out of date after a couple of years. You’ve got to look pretty carefully to see the differences from one edition to the next.

Sharp-eyed travelers, for example, will notice in the Triangle inset map that Jenkins and Thompson Mill roads near Wake Forest are now labeled when they weren’t last time. And U.S. 64/264 east of Raleigh is now also marked by the red and blue federal interstate highway shield for Interstate 87, a designation recently applied to the road from I-40 to Wendell Boulevard.

Some things on the maps never seem to change. The version published in 1922 showed a single road connecting Cary and Durham, passing through a place in southern Durham County called Nelson.

That farming community has been all but obliterated by office buildings, hotels, gas stations and restaurants near where South Miami Boulevard and Page Road meet Interstate 40, just east of Research Triangle Park. But look carefully on the map, where South Miami meets N.C. 54, and you’ll still see a dot labeled “Nelson.”

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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