How many miles away is Oregon? A sign will soon let Mass. drivers know

Courtesy of Dean Sawyer

A new road sign is coming to Kenmore Square — but it won’t tell drivers the quickest way to Cambridge or Brookline.

Instead, it will direct motorists to a coastal community 3,365 miles away.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials Thursday plan to install a Route 20 highway marker in the heart of the busy square that points traffic to the city of Newport, Ore.


Little-known fact: Route 20 is the longest continuous road in the country, beginning in Kenmore Square and ending in Newport.

The green sign, which will read “20 West, Newport, OR, 3,365 miles,” will be placed at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue westbound and Kenmore Street, at the eastern end of Kenmore Station, MassDOT officials say.

The inspiration to post the sign connecting Massachusetts to the Pacific Northwest came from elected officials on the other side of the country.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Newport City Councilor Dean Sawyer said State Representative David Gomberg had visited West Sacramento, Calif., where he saw a similar mileage marker referencing the distance to Ocean City, Md.

“He came back to Oregon, got hold of the transportation department, and said, ‘We need a sign that says Boston is 3,365 miles away,’ ” Sawyer said. “So they did it.”


Soon after it was installed, Sawyer decided to reach out to MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin. The two spoke over the phone, and Tinlin, Sawyer said, agreed to put up a corresponding sign in Boston directing people to Newport.

“They are going to put one up,” said Sawyer, a retired police sergeant in the community of about 10,000. “I’m just really glad [Tinlin] decided to do this. It helps both communities connect, and maybe we could have more connections over the years going forward.”

Mass DOT

Tinlin said he was at first confused when he picked up the phone and Sawyer identified himself. But after hearing the Newport councilor’s pitch about similar signage in Boston, he got on board.

“We do all kinds of real serious business every day, and so you want to keep your eye open for something that’s fun and something that’s educational,” Tinlin said.

This, he said, checked off both boxes.


“I think it’s a pretty cool thing,” Tinlin said. “There’s a lot that divides this country, but Route 20 connects it.”

Route 20 is not the only extremely long road that begins in Boston. Interstate 90 (also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike in the state) starts near Logan International Airport and goes all the way to Seattle. At 3,085 miles, it is the longest interstate, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Although Newport’s Route 20 sign has been up for at least two weeks, the two cities are going to hold official unveilings of their respective signs on the same day.

Sawyer said already the sign in Oregon has inspired people to want to take a road trip to Boston, a city Sawyer last visited himself 10 years ago.

“I think it’s generated . . . a lot of interest in visiting Boston on our end,” he said. “I think hopefully it will obviously do the same there, but that’s not really the end goal. We do hope people in Boston will see the sign and say, ‘Where’s Newport?’ And then look us up and if they’re on vacation, stop in.”

But Tinlin thinks it will be the other way around.

“We do have the overarching concern that we’re going to see an increase in traffic volume on Route 20, when they realize they can escape the beautiful town of Newport, Ore., and get to Boston,” he said.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.