Washington works to stop the theft of mile 420 markers
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 police locate vehicles in the event of an emergency such as a car crash, Overton said. And in rural areas, they can be crucial in giving drivers a geographical point of reference.