FORT WAYNE – Simple math will trump accurate math when it comes to renumbering Interstate 69 exits.
The Indiana Department of Transportation in Fort Wayne announced its plans Wednesday for replacing all mile markers and exit signs along the interstate to compensate for its extension south to Evansville.
The formula: Take your current interstate exit number or mile marker and add 200.
Because the state is adding 184 miles to I-69 south of Indianapolis, the northern section of the highway must be renumbered to meet federal guidelines. The interstate must start at mile No. 0 at the southern end and increase as it moves north.
But adding 184 to each mile marker and exit would have caused too much confusion, according to Sandra Flum, INDOT spokeswoman. So the state petitioned the federal government to increase the numbers by an even 200 to simplify the process. In fact, the state had to ask permission for this simple math twice before getting the OK.
Flum said rather than having two number changes – should the route alter slightly over the years – the federal government agreed with the state’s plan to leave some wiggle room.
This means Exit 99 for Fort Wayne International Airport will become Exit 299, as opposed to what could have become Exit 283. The Union Chapel Road interchange, currently under construction, will become Exit 317 – the northern-most exit in Allen County.
The state will begin changing the signs Aug. 6 in INDOT’s Fort Wayne district, starting at the Michigan state line and moving south. In the Greenfield district, crews will begin in Indianapolis and move north, with crews turning around and moving the opposite direction at the boundary of the two districts. The process is expected to take about two months as crews must install 1,843 new signs.
During this process, there will essentially be two different mile markers for the same stretch of interstate, depending on which direction vehicles travel. Flum said that while she understands this could be confusing for law enforcement, there will be no instances where the same number refers to two different parts of the interstate.
The number changes should be updated automatically for people using service-based GPS systems, such as a smartphone. For those with a stand-alone device, the new numbers will be available in the next software update. Physical maps showing the new exit numbers, however, likely won’t be available until next year.
It will cost about $250,000 to create and install the new signs, though the state will use its own crews to do the work.
Although mile-marker signs will be replaced completely, exit signs will still contain reminders of their old numbers. Those old-number signs will be maintained until 2015 and completely removed by Oct. 1, 2017. State officials said giving three to five years should be enough time for residents and businesses to adjust to the change.
This year, the state plans to open a 65-mile section of I-69 between Evansville and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. The section between the center and Bloomington is scheduled to open in 2014. The state is still finalizing the route between Bloomington and Indianapolis.