MARIETTA — In 1956, as John Edward White Sr. and his wife, Mary Ruth, and their two children left Marietta to visit family in Detroit, the fog was so heavy along state Route 60 near McConnelsville that John had to hold his head out the window to see the centerline. This got John thinking about putting an edge line on the highway to aid in driving in inclement weather.
After returning to his Ohio Department of Highways job in Marietta, John gave a demonstration to state government officials, and he was given the OK to pursue methods to lay the highway edge line.
During the winter of 1956 and spring of 1957, he invented the first edge line machine using the body of a Crosley car. The machine was used with a District 10 centerline truck to paint the centerline and edge line simultaneously. The first edge line — the white line painted along outer edges of roadways — was placed on what is now state Route 550, just south of Marietta. John was awarded a commendation from the State of Ohio for his invention.
Other states followed suit as Ohio began laying edge lines on all state highways in 1957. Before John’s invention, only a centerline marking was used. In 1961, the American Association of Highway Officials released its updated Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices illustrating and recommending the use of the edge line.
John retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation in 1979 and died in 1980. In 2014, there was a ceremony honoring John. John’s sons, John Jr. and David, attended.
In honor of this innovation to highway safety, a display, created by David, with the history of the line, is housed at the Washington County Interstate 77 northbound rest area.