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Driving You Crazy: Why is Highway 285 in Englewood called north and south when it goes east and west?

Highway 285 sign
Posted at 5:01 AM, Apr 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-22 10:57:32-04

Alfred from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? Why is 285 called 285 south when it goes west? Same for 285 that goes east they call it north?”

The simple answer Alfred is that generally the US Highway system is numbered like this. Odd numbers indicate that the highway runs north or south and even numbers indicate the highway runs east and west. The early US Highway guidelines were not strictly followed, and there are many exceptions. The section of US 285 in the Denver metro area that most people know as east/west runs between C-470 and I-25. But because the highway is an odd-numbered highway, it must be listed as north/south not east/west.

There are a few small sections of the nearly 850 miles of US 285 that run east/west but none are as dramatic as the section between Denver and Morrison that most people know as Hampden Avenue.

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US 285 is well known as a freeway with a 65 mph speed limit between C-470 and a mile past Sheridan Boulevard, but 285 becomes an expressway with a 55 mph speed limit just before the traffic light at the Lowell Boulevard/Knox Court intersection.

East of Lowell/Knox, US 285 continues as an expressway with interchanges at Federal Boulevard and Santa Fe Drive (US 85). East of Santa Fe, most natives know the road as Hampden Avenue as it scales down to an urban arterial street with a 35mph speed limit. Just east of Broadway in Englewood, US 285 becomes a bypass between S Cherokee St and S Gilpin Street changing its name from Hampden Ave to Jefferson Avenue. It returns as a 40 to 45 mph expressway between Gilpin and Colorado Boulevard where it once again becomes a major arterial from there to the junction of I-25 where 285 currently ends.

The first south US Highway 285 sign you see after I-25 is at Ivy Street. There is no North US 285 end sign at I-25 only a sign on the east side of I-25 that starts Colorado Highway 30.

Former Rocky Mountain News transportation reporter and current Denver city council member Kevin Flynn says this direction issue for 285 is similar for Colorado Highway 88 in this area, "At the intersection of Hampden and Federal, not only do you have a north-south 285 that goes east west, but Federal Blvd is CO-88 which is an east-west highway that, here, goes north-south. You have to turn west to go south, south to go east, east to go north and north to go west!"

US 285 has always had one end in Denver, according to the highway website

Until 1936, Denver was the southern terminus of US 285, not its northern terminus, as it is now.

The original US 285 went north from Denver. That segment is now a part of U.S. Highway 287.

US 285’s southern terminus is in Sanderson, Texas at an intersection with U.S. Route 90.

Why is Hwy 285 in Denver called north/south when it goes east/west?

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his award winning Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.