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Massachusetts exit number history

Started by dantheman, February 05, 2024, 10:02:44 PM

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I noticed recently that USGS topo maps on Acme Mapper show two sets of sequential numbers for I-93 in Massachusetts - and neither one matches the sequential numbers that existed up until the mile-based exit numbers went in a couple of years back. This is most obvious here, where the Ballardvale exit (now Exit 38) is split between two quadrangles of different vintages. In one vintage, it's Exit 16, on a system that seems to start with Exit 1 in Charlestown. In the other vintage, it's Exit 30, in the "Route 128 = Exit 25" scheme that was used on a couple of other highways in the past. Up until a couple of years ago, it was then Exit 42, and now it's Exit 38.

So, I-93 north of Boston has had four sets of exit numbers:

Scheme ->ABCD
MA 16519?3122
MA 128/I-9511253728
where Schemes A and B were described above, C was the pre-2021 sequential numbers, and D is present-day.

First off - is there a site anywhere that lists the history of exit numbers on various Massachusetts highways? I swear that I once read something about the "Exit 25 = Route 128" scheme but I can't seem to find it anywhere now.

Are there any other highways that have had four sets of exit numbers at various times? I can't think of any. There are some that have had three:
- MA 3 - the "Exit 25 = Route 128" scheme (25 at I-93/128 -> 42 at Cedarville), pre-2021 sequential numbers (1 at US 6 -> 20 at I-93), present-day mile-based (1 at US 6 -> 43 at I-93)
- MA 25 - pre-2007 (exits 1 & 2), 2007-2020 (exits 2 & 3, to avoid confusion with I-495's Exit 1), and 2020-present (mile-based, Exits 3 & 10)
- The MA 128 portion of I-95 - MA 128's numbers (30 at US 1 Peabody -> 63 at I-95 Canton), I-95's sequential numbers (26 in Canton -> 44 in Peabody), mile-based (26 in Canton -> 63 in Peabody)

A couple of other questions for the historians/old map collectors in the forum:
- Did I-290 ever have sequential exit numbers for the period before MA 52/I-395 was completed, starting with Exit 1 at I-90, or was it numbered starting with Exit 7 right from the start to anticipate merging with 395's exit numbers?
- Did I-495 ever have exit numbers starting with 1 at the southern I-95 junction in Mansfield, before it was extended further southeast?
- Did MA 25 ever have different exit numbers beginning at the original west end at MA 24, before it was mostly redesignated as I-495?


#1 has a detailed history of the various expressways around Boston.  Off the top of my head, I can't remember how "in depth" it gets with exit numbers.  The Wiki pages for I-93 MA, MA 128, etc have "OLD" and "NEW" exits listed in their columns. 

Check out this site:
Its got old Mass state highway maps dating back to the 1930s.  The state highway maps have exit numbers for most routes, vs Rand McNally maps which didn't start posting exit numbers on non-turnpikes until sometime in the 1980s.

Honestly, whoever came up with the "Exit 25 is Route 128" exit numbering scheme must've been on something.  Does that make ANY sense?  Let alone, why was 128's exits numbered backwards?  Granted, there were some weird exit numbering patterns before the sequential or distance-based became standard.  CT had most likely the first limited-access highway in New England with exit numbers, and thus, simply extended New York's numbers.  Elsewhere, PA decided to number its Northeast Extension exits as a continuation of the mainline numbers (even though the mainline continues further east past the NE extension).  Florida's Turnpike I believe used some weird multiples of 10 for its exit numbers.  So there really was no standard in the early days of turnpikes. 

If there was another road to have had 4 sets of exit numbers (in addition to I-93) it probably would have been MA 25.  Since I've been driving (since 1998), its had 3 sets.  Exits were renumbered at some point in the 90s or early naughts to eliminate having two Exit 1s in a row (3-2-1-1-2-3).  It was changed so that its (3-2-1-2-3).  And then during the statewide renumbering, it got mile-based exits.  Perhaps at that time, it would've been nice to just extend I-495 all the way down to the Bourne Bridge approach, but then you'd have 110 miles or so of mile markers to move.  I am unsure if MA 25 had numbers when it existed up to MA 24. 

As for I-495, I believe I've seen maps showing Exit 1 at I-95/Mansfield.  Those historic maps I linked above may confirm this.

I am also unsure about I-290's numbers, pre-MA 52 construction, though a quick glance at historic numbers looked like they were the same numbers as before the 2020 conversion.

I do remember many exit signs throughout Mass had "EXIT" preceeding the distance and with exit tabs that looked like they were "added on".  I remember seeing these a long time ago on I-495 south/east of Mansfield.  That may have been what existed as an "interim" solution until the rest was built.   


Quote from: shadyjay on February 11, 2024, 06:15:17 PM
Check out this site:
Its got old Mass state highway maps dating back to the 1930s.  The state highway maps have exit numbers for most routes, vs Rand McNally maps which didn't start posting exit numbers on non-turnpikes until sometime in the 1980s.

Well, it was worth asking this question just to get that link. That is an absolute gold mine... there goes my evening. :D Thanks!

I poked around at a few maps, and discovered...
- You are correct that I-495 had exit numbers starting with Exit 1 at I-95. In that scheme, the Mass Pike was Exit 10 and the numbers topped out at Exit 44. So 495 did have three sets: sequential starting at I-95, sequential starting at I-195, and mileage-based.
- The earliest map I found with exit numbers for I-290 is 1970. At that point, MA 52 is under construction around Webster and only proposed from there to Auburn. However, I-290's numbers already have Exit 6 in Auburn, and Exit 26 at I-495 - so someone "planned ahead" to account for the exit numbers between CT and Auburn.
- I have not found anything that had exit numbers on MA 25 during the period when it started at MA 24. So, the jury's still out on that one.
- I guess I'm not surprised, but even I-95 south of Boston used the "25 is 128" scheme at one time, with exit numbers going from 25 in Canton up to 36 just before the RI state line. Like you said, quite the weird system.
- As a side note - I never realized that MA 24 from Brockton-Fall River was as old as it is. That predates 495, 95, most of the MA 3 expressway, even the Pike inside Route 128. Wild.

The Ghostbuster

I'm glad exit numbers were made more appropriate in the state of Massachusetts by the late 80's, because prior to that, they were numbered all over the place. I wonder how much confusion the exit numbers were for drivers back then.

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