Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

Has anyone else noticed the veritable forest of new road signs that has sprung up along eastside thoroughfares? I’ve noticed them on Cherokee, Whit Davis, and Winterville Roads – they may be elsewhere around the county, but I travel these roads on a daily basis and this is where I have noticed them.

The new road signs (indicating stops, curves, speed limits, etc.) have been installed right next to identical existing signs; the only difference is that the new ones appear to be marginally taller. If the idea is to upgrade the signage by replacing old signs with new ones, I do not see the point as there was nothing wrong with the existing ones. Besides which, the original signs were left in place when the new ones were installed. That means that a crew of workers will have to revisit the same locations to take the original signs down.

Whatever the purpose, this process strikes me as a tremendous waste of tax dollars and workers’ time. Is there a rational explanation for this that I am missing?

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Adrian said...

The old signs will likely be reused or recycled. There is apparently a policy decision at some level of government that the larger signs increase safety. Maybe there is even the argument that a larger speed limit sign increases fairness. I guess I would want to know more about this activity before I made my own judgment. Let us know if you get in touch with David Clark or someone who knows about this project.

paveplanet said...

Did you bother to call the Traffic Engineering department to find out? I am sure that there is a reasonable explanation, unless of course your only desire is to bitch about something. You always seem to preach personal responsibility - isn't that what the Libertarian platform is partially based on? I would think that some of that personal responsibility is to find out something before going off on it.

Anonymous said...

I took the time and called Public Works.

The roads are part of 40 around ACC receiving upgraded signs that meet higher DOT standards than the old signs. The money comes from a state grant and due to the # of roads involved, a contractor is being used to put in the new signs.

The contractor puts in the new signs by the old ones, which allows Public Works to verify they put in the right signs in the right places before removing the old ones.

Pretty straightforward and easy for anyone to find out with a simple phone call.

I sure wish more citizens & bloggers would spend the time getting answers from the gov't before ruminating.

Anonymous said...

oh, and yes, the signs/posts will be recycled/reused.

james said...

For my part, I took paveplanet's advice (needlessly childish and insulting though it was) and called Traffic Engineering. The version that I got, assuming my notes are accurate, is that the new signs are part of a “off system” road safety program funded trough a federal grant of over $1 million, so designated because the roads are local rather than under the purview of the state or federal governments.

The program will upgrade signage, markings, and a few guardrails on about 50 county roads. The new signage is supposed to be more reflective and some of the new signs are a bit larger that those they are replacing. After a few years, there will be some sort of evaluation to determine if the concept actually reduces accidents. Though the installation was contracted out to a private firm through the grant, the county will pay for removing the existing signs and inspecting the work. All of which is well and good; who would argue against increased safety.

On the other hand, my original point remains – we are spending a tremendous amount of money to replace a whole bunch of signs that really do not need replacing and are taking two rounds of work to do it. If the program were not being funded from another source, we would not be doing it at all. Given that out local government has been known to spend money in a wanton fashion (remember that $157K for newspaper racks and that $27K for a piece of “period” carpet), a little skepticism is entirely justified.

The folks at Traffic Engineering were polite and helpful, but I can assure you from personal experience on a variety of issues that “getting answers from the government” is not necessarily easy or accurate.

james said...

You know, upon further reflection perhaps we are all getting a bit too exercised about this. We can respectfully disagree on policy and expenditures.

paveplanet said...

I agree that we probably get excited from time to time about interacting with the government and it's action. Everyone does have their own view of this government (having lived here for 10 years after spending my time on both the east and west coasts, I would say that this is still one of the more effective governments for the price. My taxes are still lower that what I was paying on the east coast back in the early 1990's and the west coast in the mid 1990's by half a.d I get much more responsive service.

If in fact it is a federal grant - I say good for us. $1 million dollars for signs, markings, and guardrail - not the sexiest federal grant but one that I suspect will aid in safety to some small extent which should be viewed as a good thing.

J.T. said...

This is where I really part with conservatives...this program is a REAL GOOD START. For YEARS the counties/cities have completely neglected or done a piss poor job with engineering, installing and maintaining road signs. Barrow County was a joke until recently. Oconee had left their signs from the previous program like this to rot from the 70's. But keep in mind, both of those counties now also have engineering departments and a lot more people/cash.

We don't have this where I live: our maintenance is left to unqualified county road workers who have absolutely no idea what they're doing other than occassionally calling up the DOT, and likewise the DOT could care less about what they're doing. The commissioner likewise has no intentions in investing in correcting the numerous safety problems or using anything remotely state standard. This program at least gives an incentive to at least once every 5-10 years get some new signs, road striping, etc on roads that never were treated that well before.

I know in Athens it seems a waste because that is one of the few counties in Georgia that got their signs up to specs and actually care, but a massive upgrade would take them years without it. Where I live all they do is put up junk signs that you can't see at night, fade quickly, aren't engineered properly and are not standard. I am waiting impatiently for the day they give this treatment to my road even though I am betting since the county who has no engineer will be in charge, they will just have screwed up brighter signs. In Towns County, they put up tons of new state standard curve warning signs where previously there was absolutely nothing, and obviously these were at least engineered. Keep in mind these are mountain roads with numerous dangerous curves and turns.

What this state really needs is to get the rural road maintenance consolidated to a regional, state or another level to reduce the amount of little tiny governments with no money, no standards and no concern for doing anything right into safe and adequate roads like you have in Athens. (Athens was consolidated partly for that reason). There also must be a way to coerce the urban counties into full compliance with state standards instead of this approach. I noticed that Oregon and California both have very uniform maintenance on their county roads with the state, but unlike in Georgia that is a priority there, they have large counties to do it and they have small state highway systems that allow more money to go to the counties. Here, just doing something that should please libertarians and conservatives alike such as having counties maintain state roads to reduce duplicate services, improve the county level of roads and hopefully provide enough money to have an engineer in the county. Wisconsin does it and other states that have tried it instantly saw dramatic improvement in the county roads as most programs force counties to fully comply with state standards in turn for the reduction of costs to both agencies. Two Tennessee counties recently joined the bandwagon, and in Pennsylvania numerous town governments did the same. Just think about it.