Thursday, April 3, 2014

Road Signs

There has been a news story on WCSH-TV the last couple of days which I find interesting.  It concerned road signs, specifically signs on the state's Interstates, including the Maine Turnpike (I-95) and free roads (I-295).  The Maine Turnpike Authority wants them removed or changed.  I think it would be a big mistake.

Peter Mills, the MTA head honcho, says the signs don't meet federal highway guidelines and the state could lose millions of dollars if they remain as is.  I say to Mr. Mills, work with our congressional representatives to get the law changed.  To travelers, highway signs are important and the ones in Maine, in my humble estimation, are particularly useful.  They're big.  Whizzing along at 65 mph (or higher) one gets to see the information on those signs in time to learn from them safely.

I remember several years ago when signs were all but eliminated from roadways across the nation.  Although the days for such trips are ending for us this summer, my wife Sandra and I have traveled by car through every state except Hawaii and Alaska, although we did tour Alaska by bus.  The signs that remained were extremely helpful in getting us to our destinations. 

We especially liked the signs coming into interchanges that told us what food or lodging was available there.  We did comment many times on how we wished the signs were larger so we could see them longer.  When five, six, eight or more establishments were crowded onto a sign, it was nearly impossible for our growing older eyes to process them.

Some states even had huge billboards remaining along the way.  Yup, I'll agree those huge signs were a blight on the landscape, but nevertheless, they did make finding and deciding on destinations much easier.  I didn't really miss the signs until we began to travel and find ourselves looking for answers.

Mr. Mills suggested in the WCSh6 story that the most of the needs were resolved as most travelers now use smart phones, or GPS systems to guide them to various places.  I don't have a smart phone but I do have both a DeLorme GPS receiver connected to a laptop computer and now the even easier to use Garmin.  I did like the DeLorme mapping program on the computer better than the Garmin only because the display was bigger.

Nevertheless, I still, and did with the electronic helpers too, rely on the signage to help me find destinations.

Mr. Mills and his group are not saying that all signs must be eliminated but there's quite a list that could disappear.  That list was published late Wednesday on the Press Herald's web page.  I think you can find a story about the signs there, also, but you may have to do some navigating to find it.

Many of the signs are for schools and businesses but I personally don't find them objectionable.  Many of them are for places not really close to an interchange but so what?  They are where they tell me it's time to leave the Interstate to find them.  The ones I see are mostly informational.  If they once again become those huge gaudy signs, then I might change my mind.

Naturally some communities and businesses are objecting to the potential loss of the signs and I don't blame them.  The solution, if Mr. Mills and his group want a way out, is to get our congressional critters to do something for Maine and get the rules changed.