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Frank Gray

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I-69 exit’s omission of Decatur to be fixed

When you open a business, it’s customary to put up a sign. Without a sign, you’re not going to get much customer traffic.

It’s the same way with cities. If there is no sign pointing the way to a town, people will drive right by.

That little piece of reality has some people perturbed in Decatur.

If you’re driving north on Interstate 69, there is a sign at Exit 286, which leads to U.S. 224, notifying drivers that the next exit will take them to Huntington and Markle. However, there is no mention that the same exit will take them to Decatur.

The lack of a sign, some say, is causing people who are trying to get to Decatur to miss the exit. It’s miles before they come to the next exit and realize they missed their turn.

Granted, Decatur is a good 25 miles down U.S. 224, and you have to drive all the way across Wells County to get to the city, but that’s the best way to get to the city from the interstate.

I wondered, though, is this really that big a crisis, or are some residents just feeling a tad ignored?

I talked to John Schultz, the mayor of Decatur. He didn’t even know that Decatur wasn’t mentioned at the exit.

Most of the people who live in the area already know that the Huntington-Markle exit takes them to Decatur, but if you’re coming from Indianapolis, you probably don’t.

People trying to get to Decatur from Richmond or Muncie would probably take U.S. 27, Schultz said. It’s a scenic drive that takes you through small towns.

“But everybody’s in a hurry these days,” Schultz said.

So having Decatur’s name on the exit was important, Schultz said. He mused that maybe he’d contact the department of transportation and ask about it.

I asked Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, whether there are any rules regarding what towns are named at interstate exits.

He said federal regulations say that at least two town names must be posted at each exit, but you can list more.

If a city wants more visibility, Wingfield said, it can always request that it be listed at an exit.

Wingfield spoke to a traffic engineer with the Fort Wayne district of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

It turns out Schultz had called him Tuesday afternoon, sometime after I’d spoken to Schultz, and a fix was already in the works.

It turns out INDOT does replace signs from time to time to maintain reflectivity.

A sign does point the way to Decatur to people traveling south on Interstate 69, but for some reason it isn’t mentioned on the northbound side.

That will be remedied, but it will take some time. A concrete foundation will have to be poured to hold a new sign.

So to people who feel that Decatur doesn’t count, it does. Or at least it will in a few weeks.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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