Lileks: Feds don't have enough money, but they have enough to do this

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2013 - 4:36 PM

Now that the sequester hammer has come down, how will this affect the replacement of every street sign in the state?

Not at all, apparently. WCCO reported this week that St. Paul is going ahead with the mandatory sign reinstallation, swapping out 65,000 signs for new ones. The difference: No more all-caps. Federal law says they have to be a mix of upper- and lower-case fonts.

Just like your computer password, in other words. No longer will the sign scream “SUMMIT” like someone ordering a beer in a noisy pub; now it will be the much-more genteel “Summit.”

Unlike your password, the city will not be required to change the sign every three months. Yet.

If street signs were passwords, they would all be the names of someone’s pet, with a few numbers to indicate the number of times they’d been forced to change it.

Where do you live? “We’re at the corner of Rover32 and SnirkletheHamster19.”

Most of the signs are perfectly good, but that doesn’t matter: We’re in the midst of a national resignage binge.

In 2009, the Federal Government released the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” a stultifying 835-page law-wad with rules for every single sign you’ll ever see anywhere.

Seriously, it’s serious!

Stop signs, for example, must have “vertical retroflective strips on the sign support,” because the familiar red octagon with the letters STOP aren’t getting the message across.

People think: Well, it says stop, but the concept isn’t reinforced by any other visual clues, so I’ll just roll right into oncoming traffic.

The money for this comes from “Federal, state and local” sources — meaning, us.

We do have some time. The rules, for example, state that “Removal of the R3-9c and R3-9e signs that had been included in the 2000 MUTCD (2003 MUTCD Section 2B.25)” don’t have to be completed until Dec. 22, 2013.

But if you do see an R3-9c around Christmas, it’s probably the sequester.

 

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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