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ZIP code determines city address for Postal Service

Dear "Since You Asked,"

The Saturday, September 27 edition of the Mail Tribune had an article that said you could dispose of any unwanted medications at the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, 5179 Crater Lake Highway, Central Point.

Why does a place on Crater Lake Highway have a Central Point address? I have a map that shows the eastern boundary of the city of Central Point is at Table Rock Road. Are there any other places on Crater Lake Highway that have a Central Point address?

— David P., Central Point

Well David, the answer to your question has little to do with city limits and everything to do with the U.S. Postal Service. When the Postal Service created ZIP code system back in the 1963, the concept was based around grouping mail based on the nearest processing center to its destination.

The first three digits of Medford-area ZIP codes, 975, refer to the nearest "sectional," or distribution center. The last two digits refer to the nearest post office within that ZIP code area. Because the Sheriff's Office's mail gets handled by the Central Point post office, they get a Central Point mailing address, too.

In fact, all of the businesses and residences on Crater Lake Highway, also known as state Highway 62, that fall between East Vilas Road and Corey Road are within ZIP code 97502 — putting them in Central Point as far as the Postal Service is concerned. South of East Vilas Road and east of I-5 will give you ZIP code 97504, and a Medford mailing address. The remainder of Medford west of I-5 and south of Beall Lane gets 97501.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We?re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.