SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — There’s a green mileage sign that looks like any other road sign at first glance while driving eastbound on Highway 50. But upon a closer look drivers may notice something peculiar about it.
At the point where the sign is placed, Placerville is 46 miles away and South Lake Tahoe is still a 107-mile journey.
Underneath those destinations is a small East Coast town that is 3,073 miles away from Sacramento and hosts a population of just under 7,000 people: Ocean City, Maryland.
But why does Ocean City get mentioned on the sign?
U.S. Route 50 begins from Interstate 80 after the Yolo Causeway in West Sacramento and ends more than 3,000 miles away on Maryland Route 528 in Ocean City on the East Coast.
From California to Maryland, the highway passes through rural areas in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.
For those who make the 3,000-plus mile trip from California’s capital city to the Maryland resort town, a Sacramento mileage sign that reads the exact distance of 3,073 can be found on Highway 50 in Ocean City.
Whose idea was it for the sign?
According to an article from Capital Public Radio, John R. Cropper Jr. was the man who came up with the idea of listing the Maryland city on the sign.
Cropper worked as the head of statewide highway maintenance for Caltrans in the 1980s and told CPR that Ocean City had a Sacramento sign when he visited the town years ago. He wanted to replicate the idea in California, but was met with some opposition at first and couldn’t get approval from city officials in Sacramento.
The sign has been placed along Highway 50 for “quite some time,” Caltrans District 3 acting chief Steve Nelson told FOX40 in an email.
When the sign was installed, its maintenance became expensive for the state because the sign was stolen twice. The Sacramento Bee reported the sign was stolen in 1999 and for a second time in 2001.
When a new sign went up after it was stolen the second time, the distance to Ocean City incorrectly read 3,037 miles instead of 3,073, according to CPR. The mistake was eventually corrected when Caltrans noticed the error.
The Bee reported it took two to three months and more than $1,000 to replace the sign, and the patch solution cost $10.
Sacramento sign in Ocean City
Officials in Ocean City installed the Sacramento sign sometime between the late 1970s and early 80s, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesperson Shanteé Felix told FOX40.
The sign was installed as a way to mark the eastern end of the highway in the Maryland resort town, which is located on the state’s eastern shore. A few years after officials installed the sign, Caltrans marked the western end of the highway in Sacramento, Felix said.
What is Ocean City?
Ocean City is a resort town off the Atlantic Ocean in Worcester County, Maryland. Compared to Sacramento’s population of 524,943, the Atlantic resort town has a small population of 6,844, as of 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
The town does get a glut of visitors every year, as Ocean City gets up to 8 million tourists annually. The majority of them come during the summer months, according to the city’s tourism bureau.