PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Before long you’re going to be living off a new highway exit – even if you stay in the same house.
The R.I. Department of Transportation is finalizing plans to renumber all of Rhode Island’s highway exit signs to comply with new federal regulations, RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin confirmed in response to questions from WPRI.com.
In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration updated its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a document that governs everything from the shape of stop signs to the color of pavement markings. The update said states could no longer use sequential exit numbers (Exit 1, Exit 2, Exit 3) and instead needed to use a numbering system based on distance or mileage. Officials have said the new exit numbers will make it easier for motorists to plan their trips.
Rhode Island and Massachusetts are among a small number of states that have yet to convert their exit signs, but last June the FHWA approved a four-phase plan submitted by RIDOT to begin the changeover process this summer. St. Martin said the agency hopes to finish the first round of changes by the end of 2016.
However, it will be a while before the exit numbers for I-95 and the state’s other major highways are changed; that will be the final phase of the project, which isn’t scheduled to begin until July 2018.
“Our plan will address the ‘easier’ changes first, meaning those that currently do not have exit numbers, such as Route 99 and Route 1, and do not have large overhead sign structures,” St. Martin said.
As for the cost of the change, St. Martin said the state’s newly approved RhodeWorks transportation plan includes $1 million a year for signing and lighting repair, and that money will be used to pay for the new exit signs. The agency hopes to do so as much of the work as possible through its own maintenance division, he said.
“At this time, we do not have a firm cost estimate for the entire program,” St. Martin said. “Where possible RIDOT may renumber a highway corridor in coordination with a related construction project.”
The highway renumbering process is already causing controversy on Cape Cod, where state lawmakers have expressed concern about the Route 6 highway numbers changing, for example from “Exit 12” to “Exit 88” in Orleans, with 88 denoting the number of miles to the border in Seekonk.
Here is a RIDOT rundown of its plan to convert the exit signs in Rhode Island.
Phase 1: Summer 2015 – Exit numbers will be updated to mileage based numbering using a RIDOT work order along serveral routes that currently do not have exit numbers as well as along one additional State Route with minimal impact. Routes 99, and 403, and the Airport Connector will begin updates during Summer 2015. Route 403 and the Airport Connector are subject to RIDOT Maintenance capabilities (this will determine if sign tabs are added at this time or if gore exit signs are used until later date).
Additionally, RIDOT Traffic Management Section will create an inventory of all the State Routes and Interstates current exit numbers and projected numbers for mileage based conversion. RIDOT Traffic Management will also begin conversion of Routes 4 and 78 for upgrades during Phase 2. This will include coordination with communications and outreach to local businesses along Rt. 78 that may be affected by exit number upgrades. The impact is expected to be minimal.
Phase 2: January 2016-January 2017 – Continue to update exit numbers to mileage based numbering using a RIDOT work order along several routes that currently do not have exit numbers as well as long one additional State Route with minimal impact. Routes 4 and 78 have minimal changes due to number of exits and current exit numbering. Routes 1, 6, and 138 are subject to RIDOT Maintenance capabilities (this will determine if sign tabs are added at this time or if gore exit signs are used until later date).
Phase 3: January 2017-January 2018 – Sign upgrades are being completed using construction contracts to replace all guide signing along Route 146 from Providence to the Mass. State Line. Currently Route 146 does not have exit numbers, only destinations. The sign upgrades are being completed through three contracts. In each contract exit plaques will be provided mileage based numbering. During Contract 1, RIDOT will also add temporary gore exit signs along the route that will be upgraded fully in Contracts 2 and 3.
Phase 4: January 2018 – Upon Completion of Construction for all Signing contracts, the Department will launch a public outreach program in order to notify the public of our plan to transition the entire State from sequential to mileage based numbering. We anticipate that this outreach will take approximately 6 months in order to allow enough time for motorists to be aware of the upcoming changes, as well as any business owners to adjust accordingly.
Phase 4: July 2018 – Begin construction on a Statewide Contract to transition from sequential to mileage based exit numbers along Interstates 95, 195, and 295. We anticipate this being completed by early to mid 2019 depending on the winter work schedule for the Contractor.Note: RIDOT’s internal document listed both of the last two phases as “Phase 4.”