Government silliness — Highway mileage markers

Friday the 13th, a good day to change things up a bit and talk about government silliness. Today’s subject… road signs.

Our newest interstate highways have mile markers every .1 or .2 of a mile.  Why?

We used to have mile markers every mile….seemed reasonable to me.  Then half mile markers made an appearance.  I was touring New Hampshire a few years ago  and saw my first .1 mile marker.  I figured New Hampshire is small and they must like to count everything they have.  The markers are showing up everywhere now.  I wonder if  sign companies and defense companies share lobbyists?

I have difficulty figuring out what problem is being addressed by the additional signs.  Governments love to spend money in the name of safety…but I can’t think of a safety angle here.  Were people getting lost in between mile markers on interstate highways?  At 70 miles an hour, and .1 mile spacing, a marker goes by every 5.2 seconds.

All I see are capital and maintenance costs rising.  Sure the installed cost of each sign is probably less than $100,  but if there is no benefit it is pure waste.  I can’t imagine a favorable cost/benefit analysis cost argument.

In Ohio, and other places too I’d guess, there is a sign along the curve on cloverleaf off ramps.  The sign is  a label for the off ramp. One might  say   E 270  S Sawmill Road ramp or something equivalent telling the reader the off ramp they currently occupy.

I am at a loss, I cannot for the life of me understand why the sign is there.    The signs are small and come at you quickly which makes them difficult to read.   I’m not too sure reading the sign while negotiating the off ramp is a good idea.   Perhaps there is another purpose.   OK, but what could it be?

There is a stretch of the Pali Highway in Kailua, Hawaii that has 6 speed limit signs in a quarter mile section of the roadway.   There is no additional traffic entering the highway between these signs.   I wonder what the engineer that placed those signs must have been thinking.  Maybe he had an uncle in the sign business.

I have a theory for why this is happening.

All these projects are funded with Federal  Highway Trust Fund dollars.  The bureaucratic red tape associated with those  funds is substantial (I used to work on these projects so I have first hand experience).  That red tape encourages the various highway departments around the country to do a few large projects rather than many smaller ones because the red tape is a much bigger percentage of a small project’s total cost.

If they have a little extra money left over, they add crap to a big project.   It takes years to get a project approved…and having small projects in the wings to soak up extra money is just too much work.

States don’t want to return extra federal funds to the treasury….so they put crap they don’t want or need into the projects so they can spend the available  funds. After it has been added a few times,  the here to fore unwanted stuff  becomes a necessary part of all future road projects.

And as the states compare notes with each other, the dumb ideas work their way around the country.

Sometimes signs are just plain stupid.   The H1 Freeway in Honolulu used to have signs that said Do not throw rubbish over bridge.  Under the bridge or onto or off the bridge was OK, but not over.   A few years ago the signs were replaced with more pedestrian no littering signs and a fun little bit of Hawaiiana went away.  Every now and then I see one of the old signs on a bridge in an out of the way location and I smile.


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