Goodbye Mile 420, Hello Mile 419.9

Washington State has a problem with people stealing "Mile 420" signs, so they've come up with a solution.

Washington State thinks it has a solution to the problem of people stealing a certain mile marker sign:

The Washington State Department of Transportation has a problem that just won’t go away.

For years, people have persistently stolen those green and white mile markers posted along the highway. The most popular signs to pilfer are Mile 420, a popular number among marijuana enthusiasts, and Mile, ahem, 69. (If you don’t know that one by now, we can’t help you.)

“They will typically go and take those more than anything,” said Trevor McCain, who specializes in driver information signs at the Transportation Department. “They have special meanings to some people.”

So the sign aficionados in Washington had to get creative. In hot spots for sign theft, they’ve simply moved the highway marker back one-tenth of a mile and tweaked the sign to say Mile 419.9. Or Mile 68.9.

The solution has not always been effective. In 2009, the state added a Kelly green sign reading Mile 68.9 to Route 231 in eastern Washington, said Ryan Overton, a spokesman with the Transportation Department. Two years later, someone stole it. Three years after that, its replacement disappeared.

And in another two years, drivers were yet again deprived of knowing the midpoint between Miles 68 and 70.

Transportation Department employees also have the burden of explaining to people that this pattern of sign theft is not at all a laughing matter.

The mile markers are meant to help ambulances and the police locate vehicles in the event of an emergency like a car crash, Mr. Overton said. And in rural areas, they can be crucial in giving drivers a geographical point of reference.

“These are a big safety issue, and that’s why we ask people not to take them,” he said.

The Transportation Department has also tried to impress upon people that the financial burden of replacing these signs ultimately falls on taxpayers.

This isn’t the first solution that the Transportation Department has tried. Mr. Overton said that a department employee recalled a story from about 15 years ago in which they installed a Mile 69 marker using a steel post in concrete. It wasn’t long before someone used a car to yank the sign off the ground.

Another attempt involved replacing the problem markers with blank signs, Mr. McCain said. John Bryant, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said that several years ago, when he worked in the southern part of the state, the Mile 69 marker in Yakima County proved to be particularly elusive. At one point, the state installed a blank sign to mark the spot, he said

Silly? Obviously, but perhaps effective.

FILED UNDER: Humor, Popular Culture
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    I would honestly sooner steal 419.9 than 420. It’s just funnier. The entire idea of it makes me giggle.

  2. Kathy says:

    They should sell mile marker signs. The website address could be added tot he most popular ones that get stolen, and Waze could display an add for the website in the environs of it.

    More people would like to have a sign than dare to steal one. So even if this doesn’t deter theft, it should bring in enough money to replace the stolen ones.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    This obviously calls for a study on the numerical precision of stoner humor. How far from 420 does a mileage sign have to get to stop being funny?

  4. Moosebreath says:

    When I was a teenager, a highway exit to Devon, PA was regularly defaced by painting over the final letter, in honor of the band who wore flower pots on their heads. DOT would replace the sign, and a few days later, it was painted over again.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @Moosebreath: I was living in an small town on the north shore of Long Island, and I used to regularly “vandalize” some signs with tape and markers.

    “No walking dogs” became “no talking dogs”, and the rather long winded “Don’t Feed Wildlife. Leash Your Dog” became “Don’t Feed The Wildlife Your Dog”.

    I’m a big fan of “Stop For Me It’s The Claw”.

    And, in Park Slope, when The Gowanus Lounge closed, someone modified the “GOWANUS” on their awnings to read “GO ANUS” on one side of the restaurant and “COWANUS” on the other. I wish I could take credit, but it happened before I got to it. And I didn’t even think of modifying the G to a C, so I’m glad they got to it before I did.

  6. John Peabody says:

    The OTB commenters are showing their true side.

  7. Franklin says:

    I-75 in Michigan has a popular sign for exit 69 to Big Beaver Rd.

  8. Richard Gardner says:

    Similarly in Washington State, the 6-6-6 to Aberdeen mileage sign has been replaced with 6-6-7 for safety reasons. This sign is famous from a Nirvana photo with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, and fans were crossing the limited access highway to repeat the photo. https://www.kxro.com/666-to-667-iconic-sign-no-more/
    This post made me look up Krist Novoselic’s band (Giants in the Trees) schedule, I’ll be going this Spring (in a venue that hasn’t opened yet so two birds….)

  9. Lori says:

    Similarly in Wisconsin, travelers heading northbound out of Chicagoland can’t miss the Bong Recreation Area.

  10. Warren Peese says:

    This doesn’t make sense. The State of WA isn’t close to 420 miles across, lengthwise, and I-82 runs from Ellensburg to the OR border, not that long of a distance.
    EDIT: Okay, I did some checking. The picture of the 419.9 marker is is in Idaho, not WA State.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/08/20/a-map-of-the-remaining-420-mile-markers-in-the-u-s/?utm_term=.6f896a213065

  11. Richard Gardner says:

    I’m pretty sure this is on WA-20 which is 436 miles long. US-12 in WA is 430.8 miles long.