The road signs of Mass. will change, but not much is said about it | Local News


Massachusetts is under a federal mandate to radically change the way it numbers interstate road signs, and has even awarded a contract to begin the gargantuan job. But, the state Department of Transportation is apparently in no rush to tell anyone about it – not the public, not even other agencies.

The Federal Highway Administration now requires that exit signs on freeways and other major roads be based on mileage or distance, rather than a sequential or consecutive numbering system, as has been done in Massachusetts since opening. of Interstate 95 in the Attleboro area on October 16. , 1964.

But, MassDOT has yet to make a formal announcement of the changes.

The Southeast Regional Economic Planning and Development District (SRPEDD), which is responsible for planning and analysis of transportation and infrastructure in the Attleboro area and much of the south coast, says that ‘he heard nothing of the plans.

“You’re the first to mention it,” SRPEDD director of transportation planning Paul Mission told the Sun Chronicle last week.

He said a mileage-based system is used in Maine.

The federal agency commissioned the change in 2009 because most states were already using the mileage-based system.

The reason is that drivers would be better served by a uniform national system. It helps motorists determine mileage traveled and distances to destination, and facilitates quick and accurate emergency response.

States were required to adopt the new directive and submit a plan to the Federal Highway Administration by 2012 on how compliance will be met. But, there is no deadline for making the change.

Only a few states, all located in the northeast, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut, still use the old system.

Connecticut recently implemented the change to Interstate 395 when it had to replace thousands of old signs along the 53-mile corridor that had passed their useful life. Maine made the conversion in 2001.

Both states have made significant efforts to educate the public, businesses, chambers of commerce, regional planning agencies and other stakeholders well in advance of the project’s start. Representatives of the Maine Expressway have also worked closely with the tourism association and have visited fairs and festivals to spread the word.

Massachusetts, on the other hand, has been reluctant to discuss if and when it will implement an exit sign conversion project that will affect thousands of interstate stations.

In the Attleboro area alone, there are four interstate freeways with a total of 18 exits.

Interstate 95 crosses Attleboro, North Attleboro, Mansfield and Foxboro. Exit 1 is Route 1 in South Attleboro, Exit 3 is Route 123 in Attleboro, Exit 5 is Toner Boulevard in North Attleboro, and Exit 7 is Route 140 in Foxboro.

Interstate 495 crosses Norton, Mansfield, Foxboro, Plainville and Wrentham. Exit 9 is Bay Street in Norton, Exit 10 is Route 123 in Norton, Exit 14 is Route 1 in Plainville, and Exit 15 is Route 1A in Wrentham.

Interstate 295 crosses North Atteboro and Attleboro. Exit 1 is Route 1 and Exit 2 is Interstate 95.

Interstate 195 crosses Seekonk and Rehoboth. Exit 1 is Route 114A, or the Fall River Avenue exit.

In response to a request from The Sun Chronicle, MassDOT sent an email with a list of frequently asked questions about the renumbering project, but did not provide a timeline or a detailed explanation of how the new issues would appear on exit signs.

The little-known project was the subject of a request for public registration last year after state transport officials refused to provide information about the renumbering of The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester.

As it turns out, MassDOT awarded a $ 1.73 million contract for the first part of the project to Halifax-based Liddell Bros. The project involves renumbering the outputs with overlays, rather than new panels. The indication of the current release number would be left for a while to allow the audience to get used to the change.

In a copy of an email from September 10, 2015, obtained via The Telegram & Gazette’s request for public records, Stephen Timmins, the road sign engineer and state project manager, after being interviewed by federal officials on how the public would be informed, said: “We will have a meeting with our public relations officers shortly to start working on the implementation of the public relations effort for this project, which will take place. will take place at the same time as the implementation of the renumbering. “

The project was due to start in January.

However, a spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration told the Telegram & Gazette earlier this month that the project would begin during the “spring 2016 construction season.”

But now, after The Sun Chronicle’s investigations, anyone can guess when the project will begin.

“At the moment, the new exit signage plans are being evaluated. At the moment, plans are planned for a public process and no new exit signage is about to be installed,” he said. declared the MassDOT document.

Currently, there is no timetable for the start of the project, the agency said.

State highway administrator Thomas J. Tinlin told the Telegram & Gazette in January that he had yet to approve the project, even though the contract had been awarded two months earlier.

“I’m just doing a little bit of due diligence,” he said. “I want to take a look at what we do with our money and why we are doing projects. I’m not interested in obstructing the federal requirement, but we need to understand the impact this will have on our clients. Forty -Five other states felt it made sense to them. But my job is to see that it makes sense for the needs of our customers. “

Tinlin said the project has some advantages. He noted that under the mile-based system, the exit numbering sequence does not need to be changed if new interchanges are added to a route.

“But I don’t mean to say it’s great when there are going to be a lot of changes,” he told the Telegram & Gazette. “We can’t be stupid enough to think that this won’t have any negative impact on anyone.”

One of the documents MassDOT sent to the Worcester newspaper as a result of the public documents request was a copy of an email that Neil Boudreau, director of traffic and safety at MassDOT, sent to others people, including two people from the Federal Highway Administration on January 1. 15.

“We recently received comments on this issue as a result of (T&G article)… regarding the Connecticut DOT (project) and our lack of prompt response to the reporter. Let’s just say the winds of change are blowing and scrutinizing things to try and make sure what we’re doing makes sense and doesn’t expose us to more public criticism than is necessary for this activity. … The bottom line is that we want to make sure that the automotive public understands the new format. … We may just be stuck in our old way of doing things. “

The Sun Chronicle’s MassDOT document said “public outreach” is planned before the program rolls out to let drivers know the details.

Elaine Thompson of The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester contributed to this report.

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