NUMBERING Ohio pikes goes to miles for interchanges

February 22, 1998

NUMBERING Ohio pikes goes to miles for interchanges

Originally published in issue 24 of Tollroads Newsletter, which came out in Feb 1998.


Subjects:numbering federal mandates metrication GIS

Facilities:Ohio Turnpike



Sources:Ken Kabetsky


Ohio pike goes to miles for ICs

The Ohio Turnpike is renumbering its interchanges (ICs) to the nearest milepost. The old Lorain-Elyria #8 IC on the western approach to Cleveland becomes #145 and a later-built direct connector between the pike and I-90 previously known as 8A is IC#144. The new IC numbers coincide with the nearest milepost from the state line, in this case from the boundary of Indiana to the west.

When it was first built the Ohio pike had 16 ICs and they were numbered sequentially west to east, and as extra intermediate ICs were built they got an A or a B tagged to the nearest original IC#. An official news release from the pike says the change to milepost numbering is being done “to conform with current Federal Highway Administration standards.”

Those standards are contained in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which became federal law for federal aid roads in the 1960s and has since been legislated in the US Congress to cover all roads in the country. But like some state laws on adultery and other sex, few efforts are made to enforce it. It is too easily ridiculed!

A spokesman for the Ohio pike says they went to the milepost numbering system because it is less confusing than the sequential system, given that alphabetic modifiers, As and Bs keep having to be added, as new ICs are built. Moreover he added most states have gone to milepost numbers.

That’s not quite right. The big state systems have thumbed their noses at the Feds knowing perhaps that no federal official is going to risk public ridicule by making an issue of non-compliance with interchange numbering standards. Even the legendary Washington Beltway in the Feds backyard doesn’t conform. It’s sequential. So are the huge systems of CA, FL, NJ, NY, MA, and PA. But the rest of the country is mostly sequential. Florida’s freeways are sequential and the turnpike milepost numbered, the opposite of the situation in many other states.

But why milepost numbers, why not km-posts? Metric conversion has been in federal laws and regulations for years. Many highway departments have already gone metric for their maps and working drawings for new construction. Metric is supposed to be implemented in signage by 2000 according to the National Highway System act. But in 1991 we were supposed to go metric with signs in 1995 and the Congress felt the heat and postponed it then. Typical politicians solution — tell the foreigners and the enlightened indigenous intelligensia that you’re falling into line with international standards but leave it just a few years so that your successors have to deal with the fury of the irascible natives.

The Ohio pike is making a fair bet that “It won’t happen” in 2000, a spokesman says, so they plumped for mileposts. Canada of course has metric signs and kilometer posts except that they will refer you to the “58km milepost.” Some say the whole idea of mileposts along a route is ridiculous and that we should simply denote positions by coordinates of latitude and longitude. After all we live in an era when you can read your precise coordinates of latitiude and longitude off a satellite with a $100 GPS device that fits in your pocket.

Ken Kabetsky an AASHTO staffer who reluctantly admits to being in the thick of such sexy standards stuff for “about 30 years” says he has “absolutely no idea” where things are going. He says the states have spent an estimated $70m on converting to metric and it is quite possible the powers that be will legislate de-metrication, which would probably cost more than that again. In Arizona in a fit of populist demagogery a couple of years back the politicians made it a felony to use a metric measure! Washington DC can be just as funny. (Ken Kabetsky AASHTO 202 624 5254)

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