Signs dating back to when U.S. 61 and 36 were built in their current locations may be coming down soon in Hannibal. The city’s Traffic Committee voted last week to ask the Missouri Department of Transportation, which maintains the signs, to remove them.
The proposal to take down signs designating a “business route” stems from an incident that occurred last fall. According to a letter from Mike Hall, executive director of Marion County Emergency Services, there was confusion following a traffic crash near the intersection of Third and Church streets.
The initial caller to 911 told the operator she was at Highway 79 and Highway 36, which Hall noted is a valid intersection in Hannibal. However, she was actually on Highway 79 near Business 36, which was 1.2 miles south of her stated location. Subsequent callers provided 911 with the correct location of the crash.
While there were no significant delays to the accident scene that day, Hall contends that day’s confusion could have been prevented.
“This is not the first or only time this has happened, but rather the most recent example,” wrote Hall.
Brian Untiedt of MoDOT says it’s not uncommon for MoDOT to change the designation of a route through a community, but added this request is unique.
“This is the first one we’ve seen where people were causing confusion for a 911 dispatcher. With safety being the No. 1 priority we told 911 that we would work with them on whatever they needed to do,” he said.
While the Traffic Committee approved asking MoDOT to remove the signs, it was not a unanimous vote. One committee member observed that “not everyone will know Church Street will take them back to the highway.”
Hall believes that business route signs can actually cause more confusion than they clear up.
“Decades ago, the concept of a business route made sense and was a helpful way to guide travelers into town through a business district,” he wrote. “Today, however, the need for a route designation to guide travelers is not only obsolete, but actually creates conflicts in modern navigation technology. Most electronic systems do not make a distinction between a main highway and its respective business route. This results in multiple highways listed on third-party electronic maps and navigation systems which causes confusion to persons unfamiliar with the area.”
If taking down the business route signs cause motorist confusion, MoDOT is prepared to offer an alternative strategy.
“We could discuss with the city some signing options that they could do themselves that would trail blaze people back to (U.S.) 36 or 61,” said Untiedt.
Business route signs could begin coming down within the next month.
Page 2 of 2 - “We still need to talk to the city about details and make sure we are all on the same page,” said Untiedt.
Untiedt is unsure just how long business route signs have stood in Hannibal.
“Probably since (U.S.) 61 where it’s at was built and since (U.S.) 36 was moved,” he said. “They’ve always been there and we’ve always maintained them.”