How we got those highway signs with mileage of distant cities

I-70 west, at I-695 in Woodlawn

“Go West, Young Man”
June 04, 2007|By Rob Hiaasen (Baltimore Sun)

. . . . Tom Hicks, a state highway administrator in Maryland, decided to immortalize Cove Fort [the western terminus of I-70, in Utah] in the minds of Marylanders heading west out of Baltimore toward Frederick, Hagerstown and across nine other states connected by I-70. He and another highway man, Paul Farragut of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, got to thinking about a different kind of mileage sign, one with a bit of geographical whimsy and one that, for more practical reasons, would test a new type style. It’s not often an act of traffic engineering captures the imagination of, well, anyone.

“I was just excited that we have an interstate that ends and begins in our region,” says Farragut. He had never been to Cove Fort but was always amused by a sign on U.S. 50 on the Harry W. Kelly Memorial Bridge leading west out of Ocean City that reads: “Sacramento Ca. 3073.” Back on the Western Shore, mileage-sign envy apparently reared its head. “Why don’t we give people some sense of geography?” Farragut wondered.

So, in July 2004, a highway sign was erected in a median of I-70 a mile outside Baltimore’s Beltway . . . .

Columbus 420 miles
St. Louis 845 miles
Denver 1700 miles
Cove Fort 2200 miles

Cove Fort, built by Mormons in 1867 as a safe stop for travelers. (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)

US-50 west, in Ocean City, Maryland

US-50 eastern terminus with Sacramento CA distance. (The Dispatch)

US-50 east, in Sacramento, California

“Two Coasts, Two Cities, Two Signs: The Story Behind The ‘Ocean City MD 3073’ Sign,” Friday, May 6, 2016|by Melody Stone (Capital Public Radio)

US-50 western terminus, with Ocean City MD distance

In the 1980s John R. Cropper, Jr. worked as the head of statewide highway maintenance for Caltrans [California Department of Transportation]. Cropper, now 92, was the man who instigated the sign listing Ocean City, MD as 3073 down the road. “Years ago, I was back in Ocean City, and they had a sign that said, ‘Sacramento California so many thousand miles’ so I thought, ‘well, that’s a pretty good idea, we should reciprocate,’ so we did,” Cropper says.

And that was that. Cropper says he didn’t have to get approval from anyone; he had the clout to make it happen, but he was met with some resistance. “I can remember I got a lot of static from Caltrans people because I had been conducting a campaign to get rid of unnecessary signs — and this really was an unnecessary sign,” says Cropper with a wink. . . .

Where did the “Sacramento, California” sign in Ocean City, Maryland come from? On the other side of the continent, we found David Buck, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Highway Administration. Buck’s father, Ed Buck, was a Maryland highway engineer in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It was his idea to mark the eastern end of Highway 50 in Ocean City.,-two-cities,-two-signs-the-story-behind-the-ocean-city-md-3073-sign/#.WLtkivaXsvA.facebook


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Harry Schwarz

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his colleagues, Harry is a native Marylander who moved to Columbia in 2001. Harry’s wife, Cathy, is a Columbia acupuncturist and the family includes two college-age children, a dog and a cat. Harry is a partner with BearsolutionsLLC, assisting charter school authorizers to provide effective financial oversight. He is underemployed at this time and welcomes conversation about how he might help you.

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