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ODOT extends numbered exits to noninterstates

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In case you didn't know Sylvania is 234 miles from Portsmouth, Ohio, via U.S. 23, the Ohio Department of Transportation is now telling you so - though not explicitly.

That marginally useful information exists in the form of signs ODOT posted last year designating the Monroe Street/Alexis Road interchange on U.S. 23 as "Exit 234."

Consequently, a motorist headed north on that freeway encounters Exit 13 at Central Avenue in Sylvania Township, Exit 14 at the I-475 split, and suddenly Exit 234 at Monroe/Alexis.

Exit numbering then reverts to Exit 1 just north of the Michigan border.

Sylvania's new exit number is part of a campaign at the ODOT district office in Bowling Green to assign exit numbers to all freeway interchanges in its eight-county jurisdiction, not just those on interstates.

The numbering scheme itself is directed by the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which specifies that interchange numbering begin at a route's western or southern origin within a state.

Thus, Sylvania is Exit 234 on U.S. 23, a route that if precisely followed all the way from the Ohio River to Sylvania will add 234 miles to your odometer.

"Nobody's mentioned it to me, and I hadn't noticed," Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said yesterday of the new designa-tion for his city's only freeway interchange.

"When you live in the area, you don't read the signs," he added.

"There are benefits to numbering for motorists who don't know an area," said Chris Waterfield, the ODOT district traffic engineer in Bowling Green. "But 234 is kind of an oddball because there are no others nearby - U.S. 23 is overlapped by I-475."

For exit-numbering purposes, interstate routes are superior to U.S. routes.

And Mr. Stough remarked that it's highly unlikely anyone would travel U.S. 23's complete course across Ohio without a specific purpose of doing so.

While the most popular route between Toledo and Columbus uses four-lane U.S. 23 south of Carey, Ohio, most travelers then follow the State Rt. 15 expressway to reach I-75 in Findlay, eschewing the mostly two-lane U.S. 23 from Carey through Fostoria to Perrysburg.

"On the interstates, [the exit-numbering system] always made sense," Mr. Stough said. "On U.S. 23, there's an awful lot of it that's not expressway. I bet there aren't many people who take 23 all the way from Columbus to Toledo."

Mr. Waterfield said ODOT crews began putting up the new signs with exit numbers in 2005, with replacements made as the old signs reach their scheduled retirement age. Exit 234 signs were replaced last summer.

Eventually, the exit ramp from southbound U.S. 23 to eastbound I-475 will be designated Exit 232. But the northbound split of those two roads will stay marked Exit 14 because, in that direction, U.S. 23 is the exiting route.

I-475 starts at Milepost 0 at I-75 in Perrysburg, and its mileposts and numbers rise as the route progresses clockwise around Toledo.

Similarly, I-280 is measured from the Ohio Turnpike, with exits to the turnpike marked as I-280's Exit 1A. Just north of there, the Hanley Road/Latcha Road interchange is Exit 1B on I-280.

But the four-lane road that extends south from I-280's official end at the turnpike, State Rt. 420, soon will have its own Exits 1A and 1B, Mr. Waterfield said - at the new Route 420 interchange with U.S. 20 and 23 in Troy Township.

"That's about three miles away" from I-280's Exits 1A and 1B, the traffic engineer said, but state officials don't expect there to be any confusion.

On U.S. 20 and 23, the Route 420 ramps will be Exit 81A, with the number based on U.S. 20's mileage from the Indiana border. The new interchange nearby at Pemberville Road is Exit 81B.

Other area freeways or expressways that have gotten, or soon will get, numbered exits include State Rt. 2 in eastern Ottawa County, the U.S. 6/20 bypass around Fremont, the U.S. 6 bypasses around Bowling Green and Napoleon, and the new U.S. 24 from Waterville to Indiana.

In Napoleon, U.S. 6 numbering will prevail through the joint U.S. 24 stretch, Mr. Waterfield said, even though U.S. 24 soon will become a four-lane divided highway all the way from Indiana and U.S. 6 will remain a mostly two-lane trunkline.

On Route 2, Mr. Waterfield said, the numbered exits will start with Exit 115 at State Rt. 163 west of the Portage River, and rise to Exit 124 at State Rt. 269 just west of the Edison Bridge.

Joyce Dunford, a spokesman for ODOT's district office in Ashland, said her district has no current plan to number Route 2 exits in neighboring Erie County, but may do so in the future when current signs are replaced.

"District 3 is not going ahead with that [exit numbering]," Ms. Dunford said. "It's recommended, but it's not mandated. Only interstate freeways are mandated."

And it's unlikely motorists traveling on the U.S. 23 expressway south of Carey toward Marion and Columbus will see numbered exits any time soon, in part, because of a conundrum involving Route 15, the continuation of that expressway between Carey and Findlay.

Route 15 is posted as an east-west road, so to comply with the federal numbering standard, mileage and exits on Route 15 could be measured from the Ohio-Michigan border north of Pioneer.

But from Carey on south along U.S. 23, exit numbers would descend toward Portsmouth, even though for motorists' practical purposes, it's the same highway.

"That's part of the reason our district has not been pushing the issue that much, because it would be confusing," said Steve Reichenbach, the roadway services engineer at ODOT's Lima district office.

Exit numbering on a north-south route like U.S. 23 also wouldn't make much sense unless it were done continuously from the south, he said.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.

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