Coming By Car
Here are our driving instructions, famous since 1993. They are divided into segments depending on which direction you will be coming from. At one point ("Final Approach"), all directions converge. But first:
Before Setting Out
See the Conference Information page for advice on personal preparation (rain hat or waterproof scarf, light raincoat, penlight in pocket or purse, perhaps a folding umbrella). For your car, note additionally the following: (1) Clearance at the Campus Center Parking Garage is limited to 7' 2." A boom just before the entrance will tell you if you are in compliance, but it is then too late to change cars. (2) Be sure wipers are in working order; all-weather ones are recommended. Rain can be heavy. (3) Be sure your radiator and coolant are in good condition. Engines can overheat if you idle in stopped traffic, and delays of 20 minutes can occur on Route 9 east of Coolidge Bridge. (4) Be sure your license, registration, and insurance papers are handy. This is a rude driving area, and scrapes are common. Plan to drive circumspectly. (5) Print out and bring with you the simple Campus Map; a more complicated one is available at a neighboring page on the UMass web site. (6) Bear in mind that speed limits on campus are 30 mph, and caution is advised. Crosswalks are not well marked, pedestrians can be arrogant or thoughtless, and fatalities have occurred. Don't be involved in the next one.
It is common in Massachusetts to mark the side streets with signs, but not the major street on which you happen to be traveling. This can make for confusion. It is also common for signs indicating the side turns to be fully visible only after you have recognized and successfully made your turn. On campus, street signs are not in standard green but in official University maroon (Pantone 201; HTML code 990000), not the most visible color at night. They are also undersized. Don't expect to find your way to your destination by ignoring our seemingly overdetailed instructions and navigating by local signage. Print out the instructions and bring them with you. Laugh all you want, but print them out. All right?
Direction of Approach
Click below to skip to the relevant part of this page:
From the East via Route 9
This is the route of choice for those coming from Worcester or other centrally located places. Take it slow. Route 9 is an upgraded goat track that winds between various picturesque small towns, and divides in unmarked ways as it does do. Be especially alert in the vicinity of Brookfield, and when in doubt, always take the left fork. Be normally watchful for local traffic and local pedestrians. Don't ride your brakes down the long descent into the Connecticut Valley from Brookfield to Ware. Use a low gear.
As you approach Amherst, and begin the slow rise to Amherst Center, be also watchful for Amherst College students. The college lines both sides of the street in this vicinity, and jaywalking is a way of life. The light at the top of this rise is the intersection with Route 116, which enters from the left (south) and will join you for the next few blocks until you turn north for the final approach. The Amherst town common is on your right. Continue straight through the light and follow the road as it bears slightly left and down a slow hill. At the bottom of that hill, Route 9 continues straight ahead through a strip shopping center. Be in the right lane. At the third light, you will see signs for Route 116 and UMass. Take the turnoff just before the light onto Route 116 North. At this point we join the traffic reaching Route 116 from the other direction.
From the East via the Mass Turnpike
The drive from Boston is about two hours at legal speeds for inexperienced drivers. The exit you want is Exit 4 (West Springfield). It comes up rather quickly after you cross the Connecticut River Bridge; get into the right-hand lane as soon as you pass Exit 5 (Holyoke). For further instructions, see the next section.
From the West via the Mass Turnpike
Your exit is also Exit 4 (West Springfield); don't be tempted by Exit 3. As you come off the exit ramp going toward the toll booths, you will merge with drivers coming from the east. Both of you will want to be in a leftish tollbooth lane. You are in good shape; they must cautiously work to the left. At the tollbooth, you may find that you are waved through after presenting your ticket, since travel is free on the western end of the Turnpike. Accept this in good grace. Immediately past the tollbooths, take the option on the left, labeled I-91 / Holyoke. The uphill roadway bends left, then sharply right. Just before the crest of the hill, exit right for I-91 North. You will now join traffic which is heading up I-91 from the south. Continue reading the next section for those instructions.
From the South via I-91
Hello, New York and New Haven people, as you cross the Massachusetts line from the south. Now slow down. This section of I-91 is heavily patrolled, and state police speed traps abound in the picturesque hills ahead. Speed limits are lower (55, in spots even 50), and lanes are fewer, where I-91 goes through Springfield. Posted speed otherwise is 65. The typical actual speed is nearer 75, but that won't help you in any roadside conversations with the state police in their sometimes unmarked cars.
Under normal conditions, it is about an hour from the Mass Pike intersection to your destination.
Those merging into I-91 just north of the Mass Pike crossing will need to get into at least the center lane, since the right lane will end in a short time. You also want to get clear of mall on and off traffic in this immediate vicinity. Be careful changing lanes, but manage somehow. Once the road becomes two-lane, we recommend the right lane and a relaxed attitude generally. There is a nice scenic overlook a bit to the north. Stop in the parking lot if you like. It is a nice chance to take in the scenery and restore circulation in your legs. We want you to arrive safe and reasonably happy.
Speed traps are especially thick between Exits 17 (Easthampton) and 18 (Northampton). Your exit to pick up Route 9 for Hadley and Amherst is Exit 19 (Amherst / Route 9). Traffic may be congested at the point where the exit ramp joins Route 9; be patient. Get in the right turn lane. As you wait to join Route 9, set your trip odometer to zero. We are going to talk you in on instruments, and the odometer is the instrument.
You are now crossing the bridge, toward Amherst. You are probably in the right lane. Beware that the two bridge lanes merge tgo one just past the bridge. Watch out for stopped cars trying to turn left (into a side road) against oncoming traffic just at the point of merger.
Landmarks. Moving eastward along Route 9 (locally called Russeel Street), there is a light at mile 1.0 (the intersection with Route 47). The Peking Garden restaurant, the site of our Saturday banquets, which are only slightly less famous than these driving instructions, is just past the light on your left. At 1.8 miles there is another light, near the Hadley town hall and (typically) a parked police cruiser. This is a complex school crossing and needs your attention, in and out of school season. At 4.0 miles is a traffic light at the entrance to the Mountain Farms Mall (anchored on a WalMart). Immediately following, at 4.1 miles, is another light at Maple Street, and another mall just ahead to your right (the store nearest to Route 9 is Trader Joe's). Avoid the right turnoff and left-turn lanes at both these lights. Once past Maple Street, work into the left lane, and as the next light approaches, get into the left turn lane for Route 116 North and UMass. That lane will appear at about 4.7 miles. Make your left turn onto 116 as soon as you get the green arrow.
We now join our friends coming from the east via Route 9. Beware of them or other merging traffic on the right. Obviously, the odometer settings given here do not apply to them, but they may convert by subtracting 4.8 from the readings given here.
As you (both) go north along Route 116, the UMass campus skyline, including high-rise dorms as well as the landmark Two Towers, should become visible on your right. If you happen to get here at sunset, the sunset will be spectacularly visible at your left. Pay no attention to it. Concentrate on the UMass exit ramp at mile 6.0. Bear right (toward campus) at the end of the ramp, after yielding to any traffic in the road ahead of you.
You are now going east on the campus road called Massachusetts Avenue, and our friends arriving from the north are on that same road, also going east. You may now skip to Final Approach, which resumes after we have given them their instructions.
From the North via I-91
Get off at Exit 25 (Deerfield). Turn right at the end of the ramp and follow the road to the light at the intersection with Routes 5/10 South. Turn right, go 1 mile, and then turn left at the light onto Route 116 South, to Sunderland. If you are running low on fuel, there is a Mobil station on your right just at the turn. Once over the scenic bridge into Sunderland, you will pass another Mobil station just before the Route 47 light (about two miles along), a Sunoco station just past that light on your left, and a Citgo one about three miles further on, also on your left, just before the Amherst town line sign.
Just past that is a light at the intersection with Route 63. Continue on straight. The road will presently divide, and the UMass exit lane comes very soon after that divide. Take it, turn left at the top of the exit ramp onto the campus road called Massachusetts Avenue. You will recross Route 116 on the overpass. The skyline of the UMass campus is directly in front of you. Give it a glance, but otherwise concentrate on traffic.
All car travel variants are now going east on Massachusetts Avenue, just past the Route 116 turnoff. Those arriving from the south via I-91 and the Coolidge Bridge option are at mile 8.2. You will want to print out the simplified map of the campus, to orient you for the following instructions.
Just ahead is a blinker light. Go through it with caution, and get in the lane for a left turn at the next traffic light, which marks Commonwealth Avenue. As you wait at the light, the huge and costly Mullins Center stadium with its hideous green roof and its adjoining green playing fields is to your left. Keep the Mullins in mind as a landmark. Be very alert for pedestrian traffic, both in and out of the (none too well marked) crosswalks. If anything, stay under the campus speed limit of 30. If there is an event at the Mullins, or if you hit the rush hour, there may be campus police in orange slickers directing traffic. Give priority to their suggestions.
In normal years, at the first light on Commonwealth Avenue, just opposite the Mullins Center, you would turn right onto the uphill road winding toward the Campus Center Garage.
During Summer 2006, construction imposes another route. Go past that light (it is blacked out anyway), threading your way past the construction barriers, and continue to the next working light. Take a right, go up the winding road to the first stop light, and turn sharp right at that light. You will be on a one-way road that will end by intersecting the old Campus Center access road. Watch for parked cars and construction crew here also, and beware; there are two stop lights in a row at the junction. Once you reach the access road, turn left and follow signs past the hideous steam plant, now being dismantled, and at the top take a sharp right and down into the parking garage.
The Garage entrance is not where it looks like it should be, but down a short ramp to your right, under a 7' 2" clearance boom. You must push the button on the ticket machine before it will print you a ticket. Take the ticket and go through the gate (which will raise for you). Enter the building cautiously, and turn on your lights as you do so. If there has been rain, traction on the garage concrete will be poor. Observe the 5 mph limit for this and other obvious reasons.
You are now on Garage Level 3. Go straight, turn right at the corner of the building, go past the up-ramp and turn right again at the next corner, and also at the one after that. You will now have a down-ramp on your right. Take it (slowly) down to Level 2, actually the lowest level of the garage as presently implemented. At the bottom of the down-ramp you will see ahead of you (and slightly to your right) the CONCOURSE ENTRANCE sign indicating the tunnel to the Campus Center proper. Park as near to that door as is legal (the best spaces are handicapped ones, which most of you cannot use). Turn off your headlights. Gather your luggage, lock your car, and go to the Concourse sign. If you arrive after 2 AM, instructions there will direct you to the front entrance of the Center, which is always open. Otherwise, go through the tunnel. You can now rejoin the main Travel Page instructions for the hotel routine proper. But . . .
Before You Head Back
Note these tips for the return journey south. (1) Mall-bound traffic on Sunday noon can produce long delays on Route 9 east of the Coolidge Bridge. You may do better to go north on Route 116 and rejoin I-91 instead at that point (follow signs at the corner where Route 116 meets Routes 5/10). That trip adds about 25 minutes to the direct route if you will be heading south on I-91. This is a saving in time, if the more direct route is effectively blocked. Use your judgement. (2) If you are getting on the Mass Turnpike from I-91 south, there is one final trap. Once on the entrance ramp for the Turnpike, just when you feel like relaxing, you must remain alert to make a second right turn to get to the actual tollbooths; otherwise the ramp continues to Route 5. Don't let up at the last minute, or the Massachusetts highway engineers will get you after all.
Thanks for you patience with the hazards of travel, and with these instructions. We now rejoin the main Travel Advice page at the point where we left it.
14 Sept 2005 / Contact The Project / Exit to Conferences