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June 5, 2013

EDITORIAL: Highway 40 — where are you?

County police adopt name changes for public safety

TERRE HAUTE — Area residents have been trying to come to grips with the Indiana Department of Transportation’s decision to change the official route of U.S. 40 through Terre Haute and Vigo County.

Simply put (if that’s possible), the north-south stretch of four-lane highway formerly known as Indiana 46, or the 46 bypass, from Interstate 70 to U.S 40 (Wabash Avenue), is now known as U.S. 40. In other words, U.S. 40 as it enters Terre Haute now jogs to I-70, and is aligned with the interstate highway to the Illinois state line. Indiana 46 therefore ends (or begins) at I-70.

Got your head wrapped around that? Do you have a headache yet? Well, there’s more.

The road that stretches west from the Wabash River through West Terre Haute to Bennett Lane has been officially renamed National Avenue. From that point toward the state line, it becomes National Drive.

The reason we revisit INDOT’s changes is that last week the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department announced it is now in compliance with the state’s road designations. Communications between emergency responders will use the official names. That includes all 911 calls, as well as police, fire and ambulance radio traffic.

Police officials explained that making the change was necessary as a matter of public safety. Many GPS devices, cell towers and other electronic location devices already had U.S. 40 aligned with I-70.

There was also understandable concern that out-of-state emergency responders, as well as police and EMS helicopters, would otherwise be searching for addresses that actually did not exist.

Change isn’t easy when it comes to road and street names. Over time, they become part of the local culture. But it’s important for everyone to consider the implications of ignoring these changes or stubbornly refusing to personally adopt them. Emergency responders need to know where you are, and that means speaking the same language when it comes to directions and street names.

The people of west-central Indiana who’ve been here a while will always know where the real U.S. 40 is. It’s part of local history and heritage. But dismissing new road names is fraught with peril in an emergency situation.

Learn how to accurately communicate with first responders. It’s well worth the effort.

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