New York changes to mileage-based numbering for Interstate 81 exits

Green highway 'Exit' sign

New York is changing the number system for exits along Interstate 81 beginning in three counties in the middle of the state.

New York State Department of Transportation recently announced work is underway on a project to implement a mile-based numbering scheme for exits along I-81, I-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 identify exits by their mileage location along the highway.

This is meant to give 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, according to NYDOT.

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.

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).      

Work on the exit sign conversion is anticipated to be finished by the end of 2024.

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.

Multiple short-term lane closures will be needed to complete the sign work. Motorists should anticipate travel delays and build extra travel time into their schedules.