The new milemarkers were recommended to MoDOT by emergency responder organizations, according to Tonya Wells, community relations specialist for MoDOT's southeast district.
"The primary purpose is to increase safety," she said. "If we've got the information appearing more frequently it should decrease response time for emergency personnel. Wherever you are, you're always in sight of one now."
Interstates in Missouri previously had a milemarker sign every mile.
"In between we had those flexible white delineator posts every tenth of a mile spaced between the mile markers," Wells said, "but they didn't really have any reference material on them. Now we've got them every two-tenths of a mile and they're larger and have more information."
The old green milemarker signs had only a mile number on them.
"Now they've got the road you're traveling on and the direction - it tells you northbound or southbound or westbound or eastbound depending on what interstate you're on as well as the mile and what increment you're at," Wells said.
Unless they were watching for them, motorists may not have noticed milemarkers previously while now no matter where you stop on an interstate, you will be able to see a sign.
"That's just the point - we don't want people to miss them if they need them," she said. "You are always going to be in sight of one so if you do have to report an accident or other trouble on the road, that information will be right there."
The $580,632 contract for putting the new milemarkers along the 200 miles of interstate highway in Southeast Missouri was awarded to D&S Fencing Company of Festus in October, according to Wells.
The company started at the Jefferson County line on Interstate 55 and has been working its way south.
The new milemarkers are already in place on I-55 in Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Cape Girardeau and Scott counties. "They're going to be working in New Madrid County next week," Wells said.
New milemarkers will also be put up all along I-57 as well as I-155 in Pemiscot County.
"This is part of a larger program where we are putting these on all the interstates in Missouri," she said. The cost statewide for the new mile marker signs is approximately $3.2 million.
"I know we've had a lot of questions about them being a waste of money," Wells said.
MoDOT officials are predicting, however, that the new signs will actually save the department $200,000 per year, she said.
"First of all, every mile marker is replacing two because it's replacing the delineators that were placed every tenth of a mile," Wells explained. "They're also more durable - the life expectancy on these is about 10 years and the previous ones were about two years so we'll be replacing them less often."
Having fewer posts will also make MoDOT's regular maintenance easier, she said.
"They are just going to be easier to mow around," Wells said. "So that saves time which saves money."
Funding for the new milemarkers comes from three different sources, according to Wells.
"The first is just regular traffic funds because that's how we would maintain them anyway," she said. "The second is safety funds because this was recommended by emergency responders."
The third source is a portion of the funding from Amendment 3 which was passed by voters in November 2004.
"They redirected funds to MoDOT so our roads would be safer and smoother," Wells said. "Since this is a safety initiative, a portion of Amendment 3 will go to pay for this as well."
Other safety programs funded by Amendment 3 include wider and brighter lane stripes, she added.
"The No. 1 goal is safety - we want to make sure we have the safest roads possible to travel on," Wells said. "And we want to do all we can to accomplish that."
The state has a total of 1,200 miles of interstate roads. In addition to the three interstates running through Southeast Missouri, interstates around the state include I-29, I-35, I-435, I-635, I-470 and I-670 near Kansas City and I-40, I-44, I-64, I-70, I-270, I-170 and I-255 in the St. Louis area.