State Department of Transportation Begins Conversion to Mile-Based Exit Numbering Along Key Central New York Highways – Urban CNY

New Exit Numbers Will Enhance Safety and Facilitate More Informed Travel Decisions Along I-81, I-690 and State Route 481

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez today announced that work is underway on a project to implement a mile-based numbering scheme for exits along Interstate 81, Interstate 690 and State Route 481 in Cortland, Oswego, and Onondaga Counties. The project will update the existing, sequentially numbered exit signs with new panels that delineate the exit by its mileage location along the highway, giving motorists a better indication of how many miles they need to travel to reach their destinations, facilitating improved traffic management and enhancing safety and emergency response. The Central New York region is the first in Upstate New York to make the conversion to mile-based exits along I-81, with plans calling for the eventual updating of all exit signs along the interstate from the border with Pennsylvania to the border with Canada to the new system.

Interstate 481

“The safety and convenience of the traveling public are always top priorities for the New York State Department of Transportation and these new exit numbers will allow drivers to make safer and better-informed travel decisions as they journey along some of Central New York’s busiest highways,” Commissioner Dominguez said. “With mile-based exit signs, drivers will be able to easily determine where they are and how far they need to go to reach their destinations, enabling more efficient travel planning and enhanced safety for all who use our highways.”

While not practicable for all highways, mile-based systems are in use in nearly all U.S. states and are widely viewed as more efficient than sequential numbering schemes. Aside from assisting motorists in determining their location and the distance to their preferred exit, mile-based systems also aid emergency responders in reaching drivers who are experiencing an emergency. The new system will ensure that Central New York conforms to current national standards.

The new exit numbers along I-81 are based on the distance in miles moving from south to north from the Pennsylvania border to the Canadian border; the redesigned exit numbers along I-690 are also based on the distance in miles, moving from west to east beginning at the New York State Thruway. Updated exit numbers for State Route 481 are based on the distance in miles moving south to north, starting at I-481 (future I-81).

The mile-based sign project is being undertaken in coordination with the transformative I-81 Viaduct Project that is redesignating I-481 to I-81. In compliance with the changeover, exit numbers along I-481 must be converted to align with exit numbers on I-81. Implementing a mile-based system allows for a more efficient and safe transition. Converting to the new mile-based system allows thousands of commuters, commercial vehicles, and residents to make safer choices when traveling along the highway.   

Work on the exit sign conversion is anticipated to be finished by the end of 2024, with the exception of exit signs associated with the I-81 Viaduct Project. Exit signs along I-81, I-690, and State Route 481 within the footprint of the I-81 Viaduct Project will be converted to the mile-based system in accordance with the completion of the project.

Example of a mileage-based sign
Example of a mileage-based sign

Motorists can expect to see changes to exit signs along I-81 in Cortland County, starting with existing Exit 9 (Marathon), continuing north into Onondaga County, to existing Exit 16 (Onondaga Nation/Nedrow). The work will resume in Onondaga County at what is currently Exit 30 (Cicero) and move north to Oswego County, through existing Exit 37 (Sandy Creek/Lacona). Exit 17 (S Salina St/Brighton Ave) through Exit 29N (Oswego) will be converted in accordance with the completion of work on the I-81 Viaduct Project.  

Sequential exit numbers along Interstate 690 will also be switched to the mile-based system, starting at the existing Exit 1 (I-90) continuing east through Onondaga County, to the existing eastbound Exit 8 (Hiawatha Blvd). Exit 9 (Bear St) through Exit 17 (Bridge St/E Syracuse) will be converted in accordance with the completion of work on the I-81 Viaduct Project.  

State Route 481 will also be included in the conversion, beginning at the current Exit 10 (U.S. Route 11 Circle Drive/N Syracuse), continuing north to the existing Exit 14 (State Route 264 Phoenix/ Mexico).

The new mile-based exit numbers will be added to the upper panel on the existing signs.  To reduce driver confusion, panel signs with the old sequential exit number (OLD EXIT 9) will be added to the bottom of the first approaching existing exit sign. For example, the existing Exit 9 (Marathon) along I-81 northbound and southbound will be re-designated Exit 38, as it is approximately 38 miles north of the Pennsylvania state line.


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