Push to renumber Massachusetts highway exits considered on Beacon Hill

BOSTON -- What exit do you take to get home or go to work? That number may be switching thanks to a push on Beacon Hill. The bill is making through the statehouse, but many drivers are hoping the highway proposal runs out of gas.

"Leave 'em alone.  If it's not broken, leave it alone," said Karin Furno of Millville.

"It would drive me crazy. It would really make me nuts trying to navigate around that," commented Ron Dumont, a Lyft and Uber driver.

If State Representative Paul Mark has his way, you may have to get used to those different interstate exit numbers. The 2nd Berkshire district Democrat sponsored a bill that is picking up speed inside the statehouse.

"Having been in other states and having used that system, I thought it was a lot better," Rep. Mark said.

Rep. Mark proposed changing the Commonwealth's highway exit numbers from sequential, to numbers based on mileage, which would start at the state border.

"So exit 1 right now if it's the 4th mile marker, it would change to exit 4. Then exit 2, if the mile marker is 13, it would change to exit 13 and so forth," Mark said.

In 2009 the Federal Highway Administration required states to eventually convert to a numbering system based on a distance or mileage, rather than the sequential or consecutive numbering system.

When Boston 25 News asked MassDOT about when this mandate would be issued, officials wouldn't go on camera, but issued this statement:

"As a historic state that in all likelihood will not be introducing new exits along the interstate, we still remain uncertain if this fits our needs. We have been in discussion with FHWA and will continue to work on a final resolution, and reserve our right to request a waiver, if we feel that is in our best interest."

Not everyone is buying into the possible change.

"They're already labeled. We already know where we are going and if we don't know, the telephone does," said Milton Liebowitz, a driver from Worcester.

Massachusetts is one of six states in the northeast that still numbers highway exits using consecutive numbers.  Most of the country has already converted to the mileage-based exit numbering system. In Maine, it's now the rule of the road.

"It kind of tells you if you're getting off at exit 70, ok I know I have 40 more miles to go to my destination," said Erin Snyder, who lives in Maine.

In Connecticut, they recently installed mileage-based exit signs on Interstate 395, which stretches up to the Massachusetts border. Each exit has a sign attached with the old exit number.

"It's already confusing enough when you have to drive on a highway that says it's going north and south at the same time," Liebowitz said.

The bill passed the Transportation Committee on Beacon Hill favorably. It's now before the Ways and Means Committee. There's no timetable as to when that committee will vote on it.  If it does become law, the federal government will pay the cost of installing the signs.


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