Be careful when driving on interstates and freeways next year — you might miss your exit if you’re not paying attention. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is beginning the statewide Exit Renumbering Project this fall to replace current signs with a milepost-based numbering system.
In 2009, the federal government mandated that all states move to a milepost-based system. Massachusetts is one of three states in noncompliance, along with New Hampshire and Delaware. Failure to comply could result in the withdrawal of federal funds to the state. The project is projected to cost $2.8 million, carrying a 90/10 split: 90 percent of the cost will be covered through Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, and 10 percent will be paid through state highway funds.
The federal mandate applies to all highways with exits, which are owned by MassDOT in the state. Local roads affected include Interstate 93, Interstate 495, Route 3, and Interstate 95 and Route 128. Exit numbers for the Lowell Connector will not be changing.
Existing exit signage panels will remain the same — only the numbers will change. For individual routes, exits will be numbered from east to west, and north to south. To minimize confusion for drivers and acclimate residents to the new system, the state will be installing yellow “Old Exit #” signs next to converted signs for at least two years following the change. For example, the new exit for Route 38 (Main Street) off of 495 will be Exit 92, but a yellow sign will remind drivers of the old number: Exit 38.
The Department of Transportation is running three concurrent contracts across the state, each covering different MassDOT highway districts. Conversions are beginning in Western Massachusetts. While the construction schedule for the contracts is dependent on production, inclement weather, and other projects, the state plans to have implementation completed by summer 2021. MassDOT says that it anticipates traffic will only be minimally impacted, and much construction will take place at night.
The Department of Transportation says that the new system provides several advantages for drivers over the existing system. The mile-based system is designed to help drivers navigate more easily and quickly determine distances to destinations. The conversion will also aid emergency responders, allowing them to navigate with greater speed and accuracy.
The mile-based system will help bring Massachusetts in line with nearly every other state’s numbering scheme, and it will make it easier to add future exits without renumbering entire corridors.
The state has advised businesses that reference the current exit marking in their marketing and advertising materials to update these documents at some point during the two-year transition period while old exit numbers will still be posted.
According to MassDOT, mapping service providers such as Google Maps and Waze will receive updated information for their apps from the department.
Residents who wish to access project information can visit newmassexits.com. On the website, MassDOT has published an interactive map complete with all changing exits, making it easy to identify the new numbers for exits you frequently use. Residents can also find up-to-date schedule information and have the opportunity to sign up to receive information on project updates by email.
To learn more about the project or leave a comment for MassDOT, visit newmassexits.com.