Saturday, May 21, 2016

Remainder of Goldsboro, NC Bypass set to open May 27th

According to the Goldsboro Daily News, the final section of the 20 mile Goldsboro Bypass will be open to traffic Friday, May 27th just in time for Memorial Day and the Summer beach travel season.

The soon-to-be opened "Eastern Leg" runs from the current terminal interchange at Wayne Memorial Drive 12.5 miles east to tie back in to US 70 just west of LaGrange.  The Goldsboro Bypass eliminates nine traffic lights, numerous intersections and driveways, an outdated and dangerous exit and merge onto the 1960s era Goldsboro Bypass, and allows for 70 mph traffic from just west Goldsboro to LaGrange.   The route will currently carry the US 70 Bypass designation.

The bypass is also part of the Garner to Morehead City Interstate corridor approved by Congress in 2015.  NCDOT has proposed Interstate 36 to be signed along this corridor. If approved, Interstate 36 signs could be seen along the Goldsboro bypass in 2017!

Additional information:
Photos from the Goldsboro Bypass

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Massachusetts Exit Signage and Milepost Exit Conversion Project Update

A. New MA 24 Signage
Got to travel the southern end of MA 24 today. Signage at its exits with I-195 and south of I-195 to Rhode Island is being replaced as part of Project 605444 that is replacing signage along I-195 from Dartmouth to Seekonk, and on MA Route 88. The project is currently 86% complete.

The only new signage put up north of I-195 in Fall River is southbound for I-195. New diagrammatic advance signage has gone up at both the 1 Mile and 1/2 mile points. Here's the 1-Mile:

Here's the 1/2 mile sign:

For those following MA 24 to Newport, there is information on this auxiliary sign placed between the 1 and 1/2 mile signage:

The overhead signage at the exit itself  splits the signage with the left-hand sign getting the yellow 'Left Exit' tab. The proposed milepost exit number is 3 (more about this below):

Ground reassurance signage after the on-ramp confirms the I-195/MA 24 duplex, though the square 24 sign with the large black border would look better in Connecticut:

The 1/2 mile advance sign can be seen in the distance. Here's a closer view:

The exit signage at the ramp itself had not been replaced. The next new sign is for Exit 2:

Because of the short distance between the ramps from I-195 and what would be Future Exit 1, there is no advance signage. Not the case for the last exit in Massachusetts for MA 81:

Where 3/4 miles serves as the first advance sign followed quickly by a new 1/2 mile sign for, as recent MassDOT sign practices, just the MA 81 North exit:

The last pair of new signs are at the ramp to the MA 81 North exit, with a 1/4 mile advance for MA 88 South, which is proposed to be Exit 0A:

The last new overhead sign southbound, and in Massachusetts, is for MA 81 South, 2/10 of a mile from the state line:

The first exit signs northbound for MA 81 are just prior to the southbound exit ramp across the state line, apparently MassDOT hasn't given enough money to RI to put up advance signs in that state:

There's another new sign for MA 81 North at the exit ramp:

There is advance signage for the Brayton Ave./Eastern Ave. exit northbound at 1 Mile:

The 1/4 mile advance for what is proposed to be Exit 1A is paired with the first sign for I-195 proposed as Exit 1B:

The 3/4 mile advance for I-195 West is the last new sign put up on this section of MA 24 (with the exception of at the ramp split where there is a ground mounted sign, not photographed. After the merge with I-195 East there is another pair of reassurance markers with the same wide black border for MA 24:

The only new sign for the MA 24 North exit is at the ramp itself:
This includes, as you can see both an I-195 pull through and an advance sign for the Sanford Road Exit. The last new sign related to this project on MA 24 North is a reassurance marker after the on-ramp from I-195 West:

Same shield design as seen on I-195. For a bonus sign, here's an orange real time traffic sign put up on MA 24 South that, unlike signs being put up recently, is working after being installed prior to the construction project that is rebuilding the MA 79 interchange at I-195:

For a look at Real Time Traffic Signage in Place or Diagrams of Future Signs, Visit my Misc. Mass. Sign Gallery. The rest of MA 24's signage is due to be replaced in a contract that will start in the Winter of 2016/2017.

B. Milepost Exit Conversion Project Update
The winner of the contract to revise exits on Massachusetts interstates and other expressways to the milepost numbering system was announced to be Liddell Bros. of Halifax in late October 2015. No work has begun on the project since, and little has been said officially about the project at all. Officials at the MassDOT Highway Division, particularly Administrator Tom Tinlin, have apparently been rethinking the project after news of the project got out and complaints began being received by other state officials, citizens and politicians. It all started with this December 15, 2015 Article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette which discussed Connecticut's project that was renumbering exits on I-395. The FHWA official interviewed indicated to the reporter that MassDOT was planning a project to change all the state's exits within the next couple years, the reporter, Elaine Thompson, called MassDOT about this but got no reply, which she then reported in the paper.

In late February, an official from the Cape Cod Commission, the area's chief regional planning agency, got a hold of plans for the project to replace the exit signage along US 6, the Mid-Cape Highway to start this fall. The plans both showed large overhead exit signs and new exit numbers, both changes which had not been communicated to the regional agency. In a February 23 Article in the Cape Cod Times, it was reported that at a meeting the previous night Administrator Tinlin had been asked to speak to the group about the US 6 plans. Instead of supporting the exit conversion project, he instead said the plans they had seen were the result of  “Someone hit(ting) the ‘send’ button when they shouldn’t have.” He called the project preliminary and that discussions had only started with the FHWA about conversion, never mentioning that a contract had already been awarded to change the numbers.

In a Follow-Up 'Watch Dog' Article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in March, some of which used information I provided, Elaine Thompson indicated that MassDOT had not contacted any of the regional planning organizations she talked to and and speculated that this was due to backlash it was getting from the original December article, and the reaction on Cape Cod. Other reporters writing about the possible exit number change, also got a similar reaction from MassDOT. Here's a late March article from the Attleboro Sun-Chronicle where the reporter also indicated no response to his inquiries from MassDOT, nor that any of the regional boards he contacted new of the proposal.

In April, MassDOT announced the winner of a contract to replace signage along I-495 between Raynham and Bolton to start this summer, Project 606620. The winning bid announcement was postponed for a week so that an addendum could be added to the contract. The addendum included this new paragraph:
"The project plans and details for these sign panels presume that the existing exit numbers within the project limits will be converted from the present sequential numbers to a referenced-based (milepost) numbering system. However, the Contractor is advised that this conversion may now be deferred until a later date. Accordingly, while the new exit number plates (tabs), gore, and other signs shall be fabricated of sufficient width to accommodate the future exit numbers, the Contractor may be directed to provide the current sequential exit numbers on new signs for now. MassDOT shall inform the Contractor of which numbering scheme to use on new signs prior to submission of the sign face drawings for review and approval."

This addendum was later added to awarded contracts for sign replacement on the Mass Pike which were awarded this past October and in March, according to this May 10 Post in AARoads Forum
MassDOT had already announced in late April that the Exits on US 6 would not be Renumbered  and that Administrator Tinlin was still evaluating the benefit of converting the rest of the exits in the state.

So, what will happen? We should know in a few months time once the I-90 sign contractors are ready to create their final shop drawings for the Mass Pike signs and will ask MassDOT whether to use old or new numbers. My guess? I believe the project will go forward, though possible more slowly than first proposed. One, when the announcement was made about the US 6 exits, MassDOT could have said the whole project was canceled or postponed, they did not. Second, has to do with the theory of 'sunk costs,' that is that government agencies usually have a hard time stopping a project once money has been spent to on it. This project has been in the works for several years, was awarded to a private contractor, and will get 90% Federal funding to pay for it, all of which makes it hard for MassDOT to walk away. When the decision is finally made, I will post the news.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

36 and 89 - NCDOT submits their applications for two new Interstates

Well when I made predictions for the designations of the two new North Carolina Interstate corridors a few months ago, I was way off.  NCDOT has formally requested Interstate 36 to be signed along the Super 70 Corridor and Interstate 89 for the Raleigh to Norfolk corridor.  The designations are pending AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) approval.  AASHTO meets in Des Moines, IA later this month.  The FHWA - to the best of our knowledge - has both requests under review.  Both numbers would be exceptions to the standard Interstate numbering grid set in the 1950s.

Interstate 36 will run North of Interstate 40.  Typically, a number higher that 40 would be assigned to this route (more on NCDOT's rationale in a moment). On the other hand, Interstate 89 has a number of exceptions. 1) It is a duplicate of Interstate 89 in Vermont and New Hampshire.  This does occur with other numbers so there is precedent.  2) Interstate 89 will run east of I-95 going against the aforementioned numbering grid.  3) The route is actually more east-west than north-south.  That's really my only objection to it.  Espescially when in 2012, North Carolina petitioned the FHWA for preliminary approval for Interstate 44 along the same corridor.

Friend of the blog, Adam Froehlig, wrote to NCDOT asking for some information in regards to the two requests - here's what they wrote:

This is in reference to your correspondence concerning recent Interstate request submittals to AASHTO from NCDOT. A great deal of thought went into the selection of the proposed Interstate numbers. We reviewed various 2 digit numbers; however, all had either conflicts with NC routes, VA routes or were utilized in other states.

The east west numbers that fell in the range between 40 and 64 had what we perceived as greater conflicts. The following routes were considered, but rejected due to the below reasons:
· 42 – has a State route that is a widely used in central and eastern NC
· 44 – received comments from people concerning 44 and confusing it with I- 440
· 46 – exists in both states, located in central NC
· 48 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 50 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 52 – NC and VA have a US route 52, but we prefer not to create other conflicts like 74
· 54 – has a State route used in central and eastern NC
· 58 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 60 – avoiding utilizing 60 as well as 50based on review by FHWA
· 62 – exists in both states, located in central NC, less likely to be confused; however; VA would like to avoid the potential confusion with 64.

We also reviewed the various north south numbers between 89 and 95.
· 87 – has a State route that is widely used in central and eastern NC
· 89 – NC and VA have a state route, but they are located in the western parts of the state
· 91 – NC has a short section in the eastern portion of the state and VA has a route in the west
· 93 – NC and VA have a state route, but they are located in the western parts of the state

Interstate 89 was chosen due to the smaller amount of conflicts with other Interstates (85,95), US routes and NC routes. The even number routes did not appear to be fixable without creating conflicts with the current state routes.

We have received email correspondence from Virginia Department of Transportation indicating their support of the use of 89.

The Department will likely replace the 495 section and not continue it as aconcurrent route. We see opportunities to reduce the length of I-440 and possibly diminish some confusion on the 440 loop. We have not currently made this decision, but are considering the various alternatives.

Once the Department receives approval, we will follow the process required to place the appropriate signs. We would like to place the signs as soon as we are able.
For the 70 corridor, the number 36 appears to be the only number in the range that did not have a conflict. There are several examples across the country where the numbers are slightly out of order.

We are confident your community can appreciate the difficulty in attempting to find numbers that do not have state or multi-state conflicts. As we continue to add additional interstate routes, the supply of numbers will continue to diminish and simply end. Even the three digit numbers are becoming problematic in some instances. There are technically 50 numbers for north south and 50 numbers for east west highways, what are the realm of solutions for when you need 51 or more interstate highways? Will we duplicate more numbers? What about considering the geographic separation.? If there happens to be an Interstate 5 on the east coast, would anyone realistically become confused with the Interstate 5 on the west coast? As indicated previously, the Department took several scenarios into consideration and chose the number with the least amount of conflict.
Thank you for interest in the North Carolina highway system.

This great response from NCDOT explains why they chose 89 and their reasonings against the other numbers.  I think the state can redesignate routes they did as recently as 1979 when NC 277 in Gaston County became NC 279 when I-277 in Charlotte was approved. Also route number changes have occurred in the last two decades in the eastern part of the state.

AASHTO and the FHWA can reject the proposed numbers so we shall see in the next few weeks if 89 or 36 will stick.

But Adam's e-mail has some other information as for the signing of the two routes once a formal designation is approved.  NCDOT will request for permission to sign along both corridors (where they meet standards) as soon as a number is agreed upon.  So the US 70 Clayton Bypass should see Interstate shields by most likely 2017.  The same could occur for the US 70 Goldsboro Bypass.

If Interstate 89 is approved (or when another number is agreed upon), there may be a number of changes to existing Interstates in NC.  First, I-89 would be eligible to be signed along the entire Knightdale Bypass (US 64/264/I-495) - this would be out to Exit 429 (or 430) for Wendell Blvd./Business US 64 (or Rolesville Road).  This stretch of highway meets interstate standards as the current Interstate 495 designation indicates.  NCDOT will most likely (or from the e-mail definitely will) ditch the I-495 corridor from Raleigh to Rocky Mount in favor of the new number. Also, the 89 route will begin at I-40 at Exit 301 on the Raleigh Beltline creating an overlap with Interstate 440.  NCDOT is considering shortening I-440 to end at the current western terminus of the Knightdale Bypass (Exit 14). 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Road Trip to the Future

I took a few hours this past Saturday (2/27) to check out the progress on several projects that will help shape the future of driving in Massachusetts and beyond. Most notably, wider roads, electronic tolling, and milepost-based exit numbers.

1. Wider Roads
The longest construction project going on in the Metro Boston area is the '128-Add-A-Lane' Project, to create a fourth travel lane on I-93 and I-95 from MA 24 in Randolph to MA 9 in Wellesley. The work is now concentrated on the last section north of Great Plain Avenue in Needham. The work includes adding a fourth lane to the median:

Replacing bridges over the highway, such as this one for Kendrick Street, now completed:

Building a new off-ramp from Kendrick Street, in progress:

And, revising the interchange with MA 9:

The whole project is due to be completed by 2019.

2. Electronic Tolling
MassDOT having instituted electronic tolls on the Tobin Bridge in 2014, is now in the process of doing the same for the Massachusetts Turnpike. New electronic toll gantries have been going up across the roadway in the past several months. The first to go up was in Weston near the State Police Barracks:

This is to capture the EZ-Pass tags or license plate of vehicles traveling between the I-95/128 and the MA 30 exits. Other more recently placed gantries include one just after the Framingham Service Plaza Westbound:

That will capture traffic between the MA 30 and MA 9 exits, and this next one:

That is placed between the exits for MA 9 and I-495. There were also a couple supports placed for future gantries between the I-495 exit and MA 122 and this one approaching the Charlton Service Plaza between the interchanges for I-395/I-290/MA 12 and I-84 in Sturbridge:

MassDOT plans to have the electronic tolling system up and running by October 2016.

3. Milepost Based Exit Numbering
MassDOT recently awarded a contract to revise the exit numbers along the state's interstates and other route expressways from consecutive numbers to those based on mileposts. The work is suppose to be complete by early 2018. One of the first routes rumored to be revised is I-84 due to its short length. I exited the Mass Turnpike (under a separate contract that will replace all the exit signs and change the exit numbers, nothing was seen in the first project's work zone west of Auburn) at what will be future Exit 78:

But only saw the new exit signage put up a few years ago, not new numbers. I took a few photos anyway for historical purposes. Here's the signage for future Exits 6A and 6B:

Here's a future 1-Mile overhead advance sign for Future Exit 5:

And here's the signage for Future Exit 3:

Although Massachusetts has not started its renumbering yet, Connecticut has completed its work renumbering its portion of I-395. Since the first exit on I-395 South in Connecticut is actually 2/10's of a mile north of the border. This sign has the claim to be the first sign in Massachusetts with a milepost-based exit number:
It appears that a Connecticut exit tab was place over the existing 'Exit 100' tab on the Massachusetts sign. If you haven't checked it out yet, feel free to visit My List of Current and Future Massachusetts Exit Numbers

Since I was heading across the border, I thought I'd try to capture some of the newer signs placed since my Last Visit in November . This is the first sign in Connecticut for Exit 53, notice the Old Exit # tab is on the 1/2 mile advance sign, rather than the I-Mile sign elsewhere:

Unfortunately, signs southbound will suffer from some glare from the February sun. Here's the next sign in the series at the exit ramp:

And the new gore sign with the Old Exit # Tab, the only former 3-digit exit on the route:

The next new exit number is 50 for the CT 200 exit in Thompson, the 1-Mile Advance:

Followed by new 1/2 Mile advance, with a Service logo tab on the bottom, but in green, not blue   :

Just after the exit, here's the I-395 Mile 50 marker:

And the new version of the South I-395 Reassurance Marker:

The next new exit number is 47 for US 44 in Putnam:

The exit is almost immediately followed by an exit that leads to CT 12 which parallels I-395:

The next sign for New Exit 46, again featuring a service logo tab on the sign:

The next exit sign is for Kennedy Drive, New Exit 45, however:

It is before the Exit 46 off-ramp:

The first exit south of Putnam is New Exit 43 for Attawaugan / Ballouville:

Followed by signs for CT 101, New Exit 41 in Dayville:

Here's the one mile advance for CT 101 after I turned around at US 6:

And the 1/2 mile advance, this exit has separate blue service logo signs:

Here's the gore sign at the exit:

Between CT 101 and US 6 there is an exit for S.Killingly/Danielson, New Exit 38:

Followed by the US 6 Exit in Danielson, New Exit 37:

The 1-Mile advance being for the US 6 West Exit. This is followed by new overhead signage on the old sign gantry, the first appearance of US 6 East:

This is followed by more overheads approaching the US 6 West exit:

While ground-mounted signage follows for US 6 East follows:

This is where I got off and turned around to head back to CT 101:
The gore sign seems a little too wide here.

Here's some Exit 37 and Exit 38 signage heading back northbound:

Hopefully, I'll have photos of new exit number signs in Massachusetts soon.