About a year ago, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began changing the exit numbers on the Massachusetts freeways. Why? Because the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) said so. Massachusetts was among the last of the states to comply with the federal mandate. If it were up to me, I would have left things the way they were, but no one asked my opinion.

The interstates and freeways in Massachusetts were using a sequential method to number the exits. The federal mandate forced MassDOT to implement a mile-based system. You may have noticed that your favorite highway exit has a new number to correspond with the mile marker, accompanied by a sign indicating what the former exit number was before the change.

I remember exit numbers. It's part of giving directions to someone. Going to Gillette Stadium? OK, take 495 North to Exit 14A and follow Route 1 for about three miles. The Wrentham Premium Outlets? Yeah, that's Exit 15 off of 495. Not anymore, it's Exit 30-something now.

MassDOT has provided a helpful map to find your new exit number.

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Do you want to guess how much all of this costs? Don't bother, I will tell you. It cost taxpayers $2.8 million, 90 percent of which was funded by the federal government, the remaining 10 percent by the state government. In other words, you and me.

MassDOT said the new numbering system has several advantages including, allowing drivers to "quickly determine distances to destinations." The agency says "miles traveled can be calculated more easily" under the new system. Baloney! That's what Siri and Google Maps are for.

I-195 Highway Sign Barry Richard / TSM Photo
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

I stress when I think about the inability of the New Bedford School Department to meet minimum net school spending requirements year after year and when additional cuts are made to police and fire. I worry about whether the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge is finally going to crap the bed, and I wonder, who is making the decisions about how our tax dollars are spent? Was spending $2.8 million for this really necessary when we have so many other legitimate needs?

Is it just me here not getting the priorities of our elected officials?

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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