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Massachusetts Exit Renumbering: The Good, Bad and Really Ugly

On September 8, 2021 MassDOT announced that it's Exit Renumbering Project had been completed. Started on October 18, 2020 the project, over 10 months, using 3 different contracts, and 2 different contractors, renumbered exits on 20 routes; 11 Interstates-I-84, I-90, I-91, I-93, I-95, I-190, I-195, I-290, I-295, I-395 and I-495, 2 US Routes-US 3 and US 6 and 7 Mass. state Routes-2, 3, 24, 25, 128, 140 and 146. The project went largely as planned and the public, for the most part, accepted and even liked the changes, noting how much easier it was navigating the state's freeways. However, not everything went perfectly, and some issues still remain. This blog summarizes my views of the glitches that happened along the way.

1. Mileposts do not always matching mile markers

MassDOT emphasized during the run up to the project on what the benefit would be to the traveling public of having exit numbers matching mileposts. But in some cases, due to MassDOT's numbering policies, this was not the case.  A few examples:

Route 2 in the Lexington area

MassDOT did not want to many exits with the same number but different letters. This meant that in some cases they played with the numbering in areas with a large number of exits. One case was in Lexington for Route 2. Therefore, those who were excited to learn that the milepost for the I-95 exit was 128, looked forward to a number that would advertise the concurrent route that has been banned overhead signs by the FHWA. However, MassDOT decided it would be Exit 127 instead.

Exit for I-95 South in MA Route 2 West in Lexington.
This was done so that fewer lettered exits would exist to the east. This, however meant the next 2 exits were a mile off from the exit number, lessening the benefit of the new numbering system.

MA Route 128 in Beverly

The problem was worse along Route 128 in the Beverly area. Here several exits did not match mileposts because MassDOT wanted to give different numbers to closely spaced exits in Danvers. Therefore several exits were 2 miles off the number on the closest milepost.
    Overhead signs at the Mass. Route 22 exit on Route 128 South, the mile marker reads 45.6.

Interstate 91 in Springfield

MassDOT also decided to not change exit numbers at the beginning of some highways until the highway's mileage exceeded the existing sequential exit number. Therefore the first 5 exits on I-91, the first 4 exits on I-190 and the first 12 exits on I-93 did not change. This meant though that some of the exit numbers were sometimes off significantly from the highway milepost. For example, Exit 1 for I-91 in both directions was close to Mile 4 of the highway.
The last 2 renumbered exits on I-91 South in Springfield.

I-93 Exits 3-5

While most of the unchanged exits on the Southeast Expressway portion of I-93 match up well with the highway's mileposts, Exits 3 through 5 do not. If it were up to me the Ponkapaug Road exit at Mile 2.6 should have been 3A, the Route 24 exit at Mile 3.4 should have been 3B, and the Route 28 exits at Mile 4.2 should have been 4 A and B.

The MA Route 28 North exit sign on I-93/US 1 North would better match the highways mileage if it was Exit 4 B.

2. The Location of 'Old Exit #' Signs

Standard Location

The placement of these supplemental yellow signs (green on Cape Cod) were advertised by MassDOT to be placed at the 1 mile advance and at the gore sign. For the most part this was done.

Yellow Old Exit 31 sign on support for overhead 1 mile advance sign on MA 2 East in Leominster. The extra wide tab may be due to there being 2 exits for MA 2 West and it wrongly duplicated in this direction.

A yellow Old Exit 6 sign on ground mounted 1 mile advance sign on MA 146 South in Northbridge.

However, this was not always the case and in many cases could cause unneeded confusion to drivers.

Location on other advance signs

In some cases the signs were placed on 2 Miles advance signs, which, if the policy was to put Old Exit # signs on the first exit sign was fine, however, most 2 miles advances did not get these signs.

  The 2 Miles advance for the I-93 exit on MA Route 3 North has the Old Exits 20 A-B sign.

 The 2 Miles advance for the I-291 exit on I-90 West, like all Pike exits, has no Old Exit # sign.

In some cases the Old Exit signs do not appear until the 1/2 Mile advance sign, this happens sometimes due to lack of suitable place on the 1 mile advance sign, but not always.

 The 1/2 Mile advance for the I-190 South exit on MA 2 East has the Old Exit 33 sign.

Located at, or near, Exit Signs

There are many examples of Old Exit # signs appearing at 1/4 mile advance or on the exit signs themselves. This would seem to be not very useful for a driver trying to find the old number starting 1, or even 2 miles off.

An old Exit 11 sign at the 1/4 Mile advance for Millbury Street on MA 146 North.

The Old Exit 51 sign for the North MA Route 111 sign is also at the 1/4 mile advance.

The Old Exit 6 sign on I-495 South is so close to the exit ramp you can see the other Old Exit sign on the gore sign in the distance.

Sometimes, the Old Exits signs would appear more than once, for instance on the Southeast Expressway.

  Here's 2 old exit signs at the ramp for the Columbia Road exit, one for both exit signs.

However, the 1 Mile advance for the Columbia Road exit on I-93 North also has an Old Exit 15 sign (partially hidden).

3. Inconsistent Placement of Old Exit # signs

There were inconsistencies not only on where the Old Exit # signs were located, but where they were placed. Some had to do with the different contractors, but placement sometimes varied even on the same route.

Typical Placement

Old Exit # signs were typically placed in the center of the overhead support, or below the sign for an ground mounted sign.

Old Exit 39 centered on cantilever support post on I-95 South in Wakefield on older overhead sign.

Typical placement on newest signs, here on I-495 North in Bellingham.

High Placement

For the Mass Pike, and some signs on other routes, the Old Exit # sign was placed high on the support post.

Typical placement of Old Exit 11 sign on I-90/Mass Pike East.

An unusually high Old Exit 18 sign for the Mass. Ave exit on I-93 North.

Low Placement

On some highways, Old Exit # signs were placed low on support posts, even where they had been placed in the typical positions on other signs on the same highway, for example on Route 128.

The Old Exit # sign is not only low on the support on Route 128 in Danvers, it's also on the exit sign, not on the previous 1/2 mile advance.

Another example would be on I-95 in Danvers, something about the place that encourages low signs?

The sign is pretty low at the US 1 exit on I-95 South too.

More than 1 Sign

In some cases, as seen above, more than 1 Old Exit # sign was placed on a gantry support. In some instances, the signs were on the same side.

Old Exit # signs for the MA Route 129 and Main Street exits on I-95 South in Lynnfield.

However, in other cases, the signs were put up on both posts.

Overhead advance signage for the I-95 / MA Route 128 exits on US 3 South in Burlington.

Gore Signs

A similar story for Old Exit # sign placements on gore signs. The typical sign is below the renumbered gore sign.

         Renumbered gore sign for MA Route 12 exit on MA 2 West, matching nearby mile marker.

But sometimes, you see signs like this:

Was this the last sign put up at the end of a long day?

The only place the sign could go here, the Leverett Connector exit from I-93 South, is above the gore sign.

No or Unusual Placements

In some cases, the Old Exit Signs could not be placed, particularly on double deck highways or in the Big Dig Tunnels.

There were no Old Exit signs placed along the lower deck on I-93 South.

Nor were they placed in the I-93 or I-90 tunnels.

While they were placed on Cape Cod, they looked different along US 6, the Mid-Cape Highway.

All Old exit signs are green on Cape Cod due to an agreement MassDOT made with local authorities, both for the advance signs like this one for MA Route 124 on US 6 East, and for this sign, it was put on its own supports, not attached to the sign itself.

And also for the those below the gore signs, here at MA Route 132 in Barnstable.

Inconsistent Fonts of New Exit Numbers

While most of the new overlays for the new numbers had a consistent look similar to the numbers they replaced, sometimes there were font changes and not were all due to space considerations.

Gore Signs

Issues often cropped up due to larger milepost numbers replacing the sequential ones. Sometimes the numbers were squeezed onto the sign.

This gore sign on Route 2 West has the 3 digits squeezed into the middle of the sign.

While at other times, the numbers filled up, or even overflowed the entire sign.

While on I-495 the numbers use a fatter font and take up the entire sign.

While the numbers are too large for the MA 30 gore sign on I-95 North to fit without crossing into part of the arrow.

But this practice can be inconsistent even on the same roadway.

Further up I-495 North the numbers are squeezed onto this even bigger gore sign.

Sometimes the numbers were not centered correctly on the sign, especially when the old number had a letter as well.

This was former Exit 10A on the Mass Pike heading east, did the contractor think they could only place the new number where the old number was, and not where the A was?

And sometimes it appears the contractors didn't have the correct number size and used what they had.

Very small numbers were used on gore signs on MA 3 South for the MA 139 exit (above) as well as the next one at MA 14.
And sometimes what they put up was just ugly.

On US 3 South in Chelmsford.

Ground Mounted Signs

A similar inconsistency was found among ground mounted exit and auxiliary signs. Some times the font was too big.

Apparently the contractor thought this auxiliary for the Essex County Scenic Byway was for a standard size brown sign.

This sign on US 6 west also has a overly large number overlay. Was this to get back at all the Cape residents who vociferously opposed the renumbering of Cape exits?

Numbers that are too small

There were several cases also of a overly small font used for new numbers.

  Can anyone seriously be expected to see this number on I-93 South traveling by at (least) 55 MPH?

Overhead Signs

Again, for overhead advance and exit signs there were too many cases where non-standard size numbers or ones using different fonts were used. There didn't seem to be any pattern to when different fonts would show up.

   The overlay for the MA 97 exit on I-95 South features a too large number and non-standard font.

Sometimes the font was not that bad, but the number was put up off-center.

On I-95 North in Weston, instead of centering the smaller number (previous tab read Exits 23-24-25), the numbers were put to the left, the numbers are to the extreme right on the I-90 exit gore sign seen in the distance.

Sometimes, like with the gore signs, the number was too large.

 The number barely fits in the tab for this temporary 1 mile advance on I-495 North.

The I-290 exit sign for the Mass Pike and MA 12 exit features a number in the wrong font and far to the edge of the sign (this is to be replaced soon, hopefully fixing the problem).

5. I-290's 'Dual Mileposts'

MassDOT decided that it would keep the continued exit numbering from I-395 that existed with the sequential numbers along I-290 from the Mass Pike to I-495. In the hopes of reducing the confusion since the I-290 mile markers would not match the new exit numbers, they decided to put up dual mileposts, pairing the I-290 markers with ones showing the combined I-395 and I-290 mileage. They, however, decided to put I-395 shields on the whole mile markers, even though the route does not now run concurrent with I-290. That would seem to cause confusion in its own right. MassDOT indicated that it might consider a proposal to extend I-395 over I-290 and removing the latter interstate if they deem the current system causes too many problems for motorists. A fait accompli? 

The second set of dual mile markers on I-290 East, I-395 actually ends at Mile 11.8, so those markers are off by 0.2 miles.

  A 2/10 mile version of the 'dual mile markers, headed north on I-290 just before the I-90 bridge.

Sometimes they placed a new I-395 marker where the I-290 one was missing, while not replacing the I-290 marker. Would anyone think they are on I-395?

A pair of westbound markers on I-290 in Northborough.

6. Some Final Goofs

Finally, here are some of the more interesting goofs seen during documenting the exit renumbering project, most of which, if not all were fixed later.

Did you forget something?

For the Simarano Drive exit signs on I-495 South in Marlboro the C from the previous sequential number was not removed from either the advance, exit or gore signs when the new number was put up.

    A quite common error was the adding of the yellow new exit number sign but not changing the gore        sign itself, here for the I-93 South exit on I-495 South. 

   And another one from I-495 North. Here the numbers on the Route 2 gore sign were not changed.

Sorry, Wrong Number

  While it looks correct on the sign on the left, the actual exit numbers are 80 and 81A, this was quickly     fixed. Though you could say the order of he exit numbers is still wrong...

On I-290 West in Worcester are two errors, only one to do with exit renumbering, the MA Route 122A sign on the left was renumbered to 18, but that's the exit number for the Route 122 exit, the correct number is 17. The distance listed on the sign of 1 Mile is actually the distance to the 122 exit, the Route 122A exit is half mile further west, as seen on below:

Most of the new numbers put up along I-290 are off center, as seen here.

Unnecessarily Confusing

MassDOT decided not to change the US 6 exit numbers on the north side of the Sagamore Bridge for  the exits prior to where US 6 leaves, making them de facto MA 3 exits. However, for the advance sign  on MA 3 South for US 6 East they decided to replace Exit 1C for MA 6A with the new US 6 number      for that exit, 55. Since Route 3 ends at US 6, it would have been less confusing just to remove the  reference to the 6A exit at all and just list it Exit 1B.

Fun with Next Exit # Signs

The adoption of milepost exits would seem to end the usefulness of 'Next Exit #' or 'No Exit #' signs, however MassDOT apparently disagrees.

    On I-195 East in New Bedford, contractor simply removed the number, not the sign. This was taken         down later.

     For this sign on MA Route 3 North in Braintree the number was changed to the next milepost exit.

Couldn't You Have Tried Harder?

I was extremely disappointed in one particular exit sign renumbering, since it didn't appear the contractors tried hard enough. The 1 mile advance sign for the US 44 West exit was replaced just prior to the Exit Renumbering Project as part of the installation of a permanent VMS. The exit tab was specifically designed to hold the future milepost based number.

New 1 Mile advance for US 44 West shortly after being installed.

However, this is what was put up when the exit was renumbered.

The exit number was placed way over on the left, would it have hurt to try a little harder to center it?

Thanks to Greg Goldman, Vinh Lam, Brian Noseworthy, and Paul Schlichtman for providing photos for roads I could not, or had not gotten to, check out the exit renumbering on. 

Feel Free to check out photos of the completed Massachusetts exit renumbering at:
New England Exit Renumbering Central


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