A lot of Mainer's think of Interstate 495 as the 120-mile highway in Massachusetts that runs around Boston from Salisbury to Wareham. But did you know that there is an Interstate 495 in Maine as well? We'd understand if you didn't, because you'll never see a sign for it.

There are actually five Interstate highways in the United States designated as Interstate I-495 and all of them act as an "auxiliary route" to Interstate 95 which travels from Houlton, Maine to Miami, Florida. Most serve as bypasses to several large, traffic-congested cities such as Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware. I-495 in Maine serves as a connector rather than a bypass. But before we get into that, there's some history to explain here. Bear with me because this can get a little confusing.

In 1987, the national speed limit was raised from 55 miles per hour to 65. At that time, Interstate 95 left the Maine Turnpike at the Falmouth spur and followed what today is I-295 up to Gardiner. The new speed limit however was only allowed on rural Interstate highways. I'm going to quote Interstate Guide here because this is the confusing part.

With Congress passing a law in 1987 that raised the national speed limit from 55 to 65 miles per hour, the state of Maine sought to include all of the Maine Turnpike into the Interstate system. Since the increased speed limit was allowed only on rural Interstate highways, the turnpike outside of I-95 was not applicable. Approved by AASHTO on December 4, 1987, Interstate 495 was established along 50.47 miles of the toll road from Portland to West Gardiner.

So, I-495 was created and ran north from the Portland exit of the Maine Turnpike to the end of the turnpike in West Gardiner. But it didn't last for very long.

In 2004, in an effort to clear up confusion for drivers, I-95 was relocated to the entire length of the Maine Turnpike. What was once I-95 from the Falmouth Spur to West Gardiner became I-295, an extension of the existing I-295 running near downtown Portland to the Falmouth spur.

So where is I-495 now? The Falmouth Spur between the Maine Turnpike and I-295 is now I-495, but as you can see in this turnpike sign, you would never know it.

Google Maps
Google Maps

The Falmouth Spur is officially designated as "unsigned," which is exactly what it sounds like. It is officially I-495 but there are no signs to indicate it. Why? According to Wikipedia, the Maine DOT and Maine Turnpike Authority chose not to sign I-495 to minimize confusion. Apparently, there was enough confusion with I-95 leaving the turnpike that they didn't want to go through that again.

So now you know. I-495 in Maine is the 3.7 miles of the Falmouth Spur, even if though there isn't a single sign telling you so.

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