Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Highways to be renumbered

Published in the Current, the American Journal, and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly

Get set to revamp the directions you give to friends from out of town. Starting this week and finishing in the middle of May, the state’s interstate highway system will be renumbered, with highways and exits changing their names and numbers.

The state’s main interstate highway, running from Kittery through Westbrook, Lewiston and Augusta to Houlton, will be known as Interstate 95. The toll portion of this highway, called the Maine Turnpike, will end in Augusta as it does now. There will no longer be a road called Interstate 495.

A secondary highway, starting in Scarborough and running through South Portland, along the coast to Brunswick and meeting up with I-95 in Gardiner, will be known as Interstate 295 along its whole length. At present, the southern end of this road is called I-295, but changes its name to I-95 between Falmouth and Freeport.

All of those signs will be changed over as of Jan. 10, at which point a project will begin to renumber all of the exits on both highways. The new exit numbers will correspond to the nearest mile marker. At present, exit numbers increase by 1 each successive exit, leading to complications when adding new exits (as with Exit 7B in Westbrook, between Exits 7A and 8).

It can be confusing to realize that in the six miles between mile marker 42 and 48 on I-95 are six exits (numbered 6, 6A, 7, 7A, 7B and 8), but the next exit, number 9, is four miles away, at mile marker 52. Now those exits will be numbered 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48 and 52.

The new numbers “will give travelers a better sense of where they are and how far they need to travel,” according to a Maine Department of Transportation brochure detailing the renumbering.

The exit renumbering will be complete by May 15, and the total project is expected to cost the state between $260,000 and $280,000.

Signs showing the former exit numbers will be displayed at the bottom of at least two advance signs at each interchange; these signs will have black text on a yellow background. The “formerly” signs will remain in place until after Labor Day 2004.