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When driving on a US interstate highway, how will I know if an upcoming exit ramp will be followed by an entrance ramp to re-enter the highway after exiting? (e.g. if I need a gas station or food break)

In rural stretches re-entry is almost always possible—but not always. In cities, especially where various freeways meet, I feel like re-entry is much less common. But how to know in advance without trial-and-error?

(When I started driving I had erroneously thought that if the exit says "Exit only" in yellow, there would be no return entrance, but I now believe this refers to the specific lane being forced to exit, which is really nothing to do with ability to re-enter after exiting.)

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    As far as I know, there is no such information coded on freeway exit signs. However exist without re-entry are very rare unless you mean "without a re-entry which you can enter immediately after the exit" – George Y. Jan 2 '17 at 0:38
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    Nice question. Some places have signs saying "No re-entry" but they are not universal. A few road maps have special markings for such interchanges, and you might be able to see it in map or navigation apps, but I don't know of any totally general solution. – Nate Eldredge Jan 2 '17 at 0:40
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    @GeorgeY.: Depends on what you mean by "immediately", I guess. There are certainly places where you may have to navigate a fair distance by surface streets in order to get back on the freeway. – Nate Eldredge Jan 2 '17 at 0:41
  • As a practical matter, your navigation app or GPS unit will tell you. There usually is a return to the freeway, but in a city it may be displaced quite a distance from where you exited. Exits without a corresponding entrance (or vice versa) are quite rare. – Michael Hampton Jan 2 '17 at 1:10
  • The comments and answers that point out that re-entry is always possible (if you're willing to drive enough on backroads) point out a flaw in my question, so there's no official signage for this reason. The spirit of my question was for return entrances "virtually right away." – Jeff G Jan 2 '17 at 19:04
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There is no universal answer, as each state marks its highways a little different. And while Interstates are federal highways, states are still left to their own devices on maintenance and signage.

Outside of cities, the exit will often be marked with "no southbound entrance" (or whichever you are traveling) or "no re-entry" to indicate it is an exit only interchange. But exit only interchanges are few and far between outside cities.

Exit only interchanges are more common in cities, simply because there often isn't sufficient land to build a full cloverleaf.

But for your specific concern, stopping to get gas and/or food, it is pretty safe to assume that any interchange with a number of gas stations, restaurants and/or motels will be an on/off exit. And many states provide a sign board or two with services at an exit before you get there.

  • Tom, your answer is as good as that by Burhan Khalid, but I ended up accepting the other because it was posted first. Thanks for sharing your experience! – Jeff G Jan 2 '17 at 19:05
  • @jeffg - Actually Jeff if you look at the time stamps my answer was posted three hours before Burhan's. But no worries, you are free to choose as you please. – user13044 Jan 3 '17 at 0:49
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    I apologize for that mistake; yours is accepted now. Also, I saw one of those "no re-entry" signs today on I-35 Southbound in Iowa, so thanks for pointing that out. – Jeff G Jan 5 '17 at 1:00
  • Exit only usually means the lane will force you to exit, not that you can't re-enter. – Andy Jan 12 '17 at 0:05
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The easy way to find out is if the sign board for the services (food, gas, ATM, etc.) is on the highway or not.

If the sign is on the highway, then you are guaranteed a return to the interstate - it may not be straightforward, but it will be there.

The "Exit Only" means that this lane is only for exit, and it does not allow further (straight through) travel.

Depending on the design of the overpass, you may have an exit lane, followed by an entry lane for traffic coming from the opposite side and this would allow you to carry on straight through under the overpass.

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    I could think of false negatives: a rural exit intersecting a state highway where no facilities exist (thus no signs), but I can take a roadside pee break and then re-enter. Still, yours is probably the best rule-of-thumb I could hope for! – Jeff G Jan 2 '17 at 19:08
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    I don't think "roadside pee break" counts as facilities =) – Burhan Khalid Jan 3 '17 at 4:56
  • Are you referring to the interstate service areeas? Because the way your answer reads one could take it to mean "roadside services on the exit". – Karlson Jan 4 '17 at 0:33
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It's called a MAP. Get one, look at it, it will show on ramps and off ramps, and how to get from one to the other.

There is no traffic sign to indicate whether there is a nearby on ramp to match your off ramp. But there should always be a way to get to one, even if it means driving a long distance on backroads.

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    it will show on ramps and off ramps. Will it, though? Most large-area road maps I've seen (say state-level) don't show this. They have a square or diamond to indicate an interchange, but no indication of whether this means entrances or exits or both. If you're lucky there might be a special symbol for "partial interchange," alerting you that at least one entrance or exit is missing, but usually no indication of which one(s). – Nate Eldredge Jan 2 '17 at 8:17

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