Some years back I was in Cincinnati driving through a neighborhood when I spotted a street sign that read Van Kirk Way. Wow, how much fun is that, I thought. I got out of my car and took a closer look. Too high to reach. What if I came back with a ladder? A quick unbolting and it would be mine. I was sure the City of Cincinnati wouldn’t miss one lousy street sign. I studied it further. Then I noticed that it was secured to the metal pole by way of a unique looking bolt I had never seen before. It dawned on me that, of course, street signs would be attached in such a way that dopes like me driving by couldn’t make off with one.
When I got home I called the state highway department and got the name of the manufacturer of their road signs. I gave the company a call and asked for pricing. For an individual street name, it would cost me several hundred dollars, unless I bought in bulk. I quickly gave up on the idea of having Van Kirk Way posted where my driveway met the street. Road signage was an expensive proposition.
Since then I’ve made note of highway signs that seems completely unnecessary. If a small street marker cost a hundred bucks or more with a huge state contract, imagine what the big highway signs run. And they are all over counties, towns, and cities.
The other day I was traveling to Raleigh, motoring through the countryside. You talk about opportunities to stop wasting money. Here’s a tiny sample.
Seat Belt Usage
Last Week 91.7 %
This Week 92.4%
Who is spending time measuring this? Who is going around updating the signs? Who cares?
Entering the Neuse River Basin
As I’m driving sixty-five miles per hour on a four-lane highway, why do I need to know this? What would I do with this factoid? Go home and post it on Facebook? “Hooray, I entered the Neuse River Basin today.” And of course, some smart aleck would respond, “I sure hope you brought your swimming suit.”
XYZ Paving Company
Given the Highest Award for Superior Asphalt Paving
I’ve never seen a sign like this before, especially on an interstate. Wait, and what about the guardrail installation? Or lane line painting? Why leave them out? If we’re going down the award sign trail, why not list the runner-up companies that bid but didn’t get the contract? We don’t want to hurt their feelings. Who came up with this terrible idea in the first place?
How cheesy is that? Announcing a new interstate highway with no date. This way we can feel good that the North Carolina Department of Transportation is working on our behalf, without really doing anything. Why bother spending the money for signage now? Why not wait until the monster Cats are actually tearing up the ground?
Who dreams up these waste-of-money ideas? The NCDOT Sign Committee? I can just hear them around a conference table in Raleigh.
Gladys: “Okay team, the year is half over and we still have fourteen million dollars left in our sign fund. Remember the NC state government motto is ‘Use It or Lose It.’ So, let’s review the results of our recent brain-storming /team building retreat at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Wayne, please go over the best of the best for us.”
“Sure boss. Here’s the list.”
Roadway Slippery When Wet
Use Caution When Needed
Bird Dropage Zone
Monitor Upcoming Signage
(On all bridges over water) Average Water Depth Last Week X Feet. This Week Y Feet
Gladys said, “That last one is terrific. Nice! And a job creation opportunity for every county to keep the numbers up to date. Just like those crappy seat belt signs. A home run! Continue.”
Wayne said, “You got it.”
Changing Weather Ahead
Keep Right When Necessary
Warning: Scheduled Road Work
Gladys said, “Wow, this team is hot. All seventeen of you. We got all these done in just three days. And we were able to squeeze in golf, zip-lining, and drinks around the pool to help improve our morale. No wonder they pay us the big bucks. And think of this. If we place these new signs every ten miles on every two and four-lane highway in all one hundred counties, we can chew up the surplus budget in no time. Except for our year-end bonuses.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m now officially exhausted. I propose we break for celebratory cocktails.”