Local Lawmakers Seeking to Exempt Route 6 from New Exit Numbers

HYANNIS – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be changing highway exit numbers beginning next year to comply with a federal mandate and Cape Cod legislators are working to exempt Route 6.

Exit numbers need to be changed to signify the distance from the beginning of the route for the furthest point West or South.

The numbering system would result in new numbers of 55 for Exit 1C to 89 for Exit 12.

State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) said he is working with State Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) and other Cape Cod legislators to get have the short highway section of Route 6 exempt from the new exit numbers.

The legislators met with MassDOT officials earlier this month.

“I believe that MassDOT feels like they have to do it and we are kind of pushing back on that and asking the question: if we don’t do it, what happens?” Hunt said.

The most western part of Route 6 begins in Seekonk. For most of  the distance across Massachusetts, the road has no exit ramps.

The only section of the roadway in the state that is limited access is from the Sagamore Bridge to exit 12 in Orleans.

“This 34-mile stretch of Route 6, which is the only portion of Route 6 that has any on or off ramps, really ought to be left with the numbering one through 12,” Hunt said.

Hunt said the use of GPS and cellphones make milepost exit numbers unnecessary. He said road markers were also put in every two-tenths of a mile.

“Our opinion is that it is just unnecessary,” Hunt said.

Massachusetts agreed to comply with the federal mandate in 2012 to have the work completed by 2022. If the exits are not changed, the Federal Highway Administration could withhold funding for roadway improvement projects.

Three years ago, the state attempted to change the exit numbers when planning the installation of new information signs along Route 6.

Local residents and lawmakers expressed their frustration with changing the exit numbers and the plan was scrapped and the new signs were installed with the existing exit numbers.

Many believe changing the numbers would take away from the unique character of Cape Cod.

“I completely agree that we have the issue of having these 12 ramps and each one having its own character,” Hunt said.

Transportation officials said they would leave temporary signs up for at least two years to display the old exit number.

Hunt said the demographics of Cape Cod are also another reason not to change the numbers.

“We live in Barnstable County, the third oldest county by age demographic in the country,” Hunt said. “That’s yet one more reason not to start upending what we have had here for decades ever since Route 6 was turned into a highway.”

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said many questions need to be asked.

“How do people get information today? Do we want to be compatible with navigation systems on our roadways nationally? Will it really be confusing? Will it be helpful? Is it even necessary?” Northcross said.

“I think those are questions that need to be asked and that conversation can start now.”

The chamber was opposed to the idea when it was discussed three years ago.

“Even three years ago people were printing a lot of information and directional informational guests would need to be changed and websites need to be changed. There’s a lot of impact and cost to the business community,” Northcross said.

Northcross said things have already changed over the last three years and will continue to change in the two or three years before any changes would be made.

She said most businesses use websites and social media for promotions and the costs would not be as high to make changes as there are less printed materials.

“I do think we could adapt to something like this and I think that we should take a moment, look it over, really understand the ramifications and then do everything we can to preserve our sense of place and make sure Cape Cod is not ‘anywhere U.S.A.,’” Northcross said.

Hunt said that current plans would have Cape Cod as the last place in the state to implement changes, but that there is still a chance for an exemption.

“MassDOT has not put their foot down,” he said.

The costs for making the changes is estimated to be $2.8 million, and 90 percent would be covered with federal highway funds.

“I would like for us to have a little gumption and push back, and see if there’s a way that we can get this 34-mile stretch of Route 6 exempted from that,” Hunt said.

MassDOT has launched a website dedicated to the Exit Renumbering Project. For more information, visit newmassexits.com.

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