Sunday, December 24, 2006

In Which We Head Down a Familiar Road (But Get Lost Anyway)

I maintain Google alerts for a few topics, one of which is "Delaware." I'm curious to know what's being written about us out there along the back roads of the information superhighway system.

The results have focused mostly around two aspects of Delaware: the resort area and our roads. Neither subject area is surprising. Our beaches are our pride and our roads are sometimes our shame (as they are for many states).

This morning, Google alerted me to what may be a definitive "roads" site, a blog called On the Road that focuses entirely on the minutiae of American highways. It's the blog of a "roadphile" collective known as All About Roads, co founded by a former Delawarean named Alex Nitzman who had been collecting an posting photographs of Delaware Road signs.

Mr. Nitzman returned to northern Delaware recently and has written a comprehensive critique of recent road improvements and signage changes.

He has things to say about new road work and alignments, such as the new Route 141 Spur, which he argues is not a spur.
So much for the new “Delaware 141 Spur” being an actual spur. Instead the “Spur” is a relocated Delaware 141 mainline. Why is it so difficult to get the nomenclature right in the state of Delaware?
And he has many thoughts about the highway signs that have been replaced along upstate highways.
Not only are new signs installed everywhere, but the signs installed display exactly the same thing that the editions in which they replaced did! I believe DelDOT was quoted as stating that each sign costs between $25,000 to $50,000 each in 1997, and that cost most certainly has gone up since that time. So with that kind of expenditure, was it necessary to replace 80% of the guide signs along Interstate 95 north from Delaware 141 to U.S. 202 given the fiscal crisis?
I was interested to note that he also calls attention to the use of "Must Exit" on some signs in Delaware instead of the "Exit Only" that appears to be a highway signage standard; at least based on the the surprised looks I read about here and in other Delaware highway rants.

TINGB wrote about that wording in her report on driving home to DC through northern Delaware this fall:
Julie: Here's the exit.
Me: Why does it say "Must Exit" instead of "Exit Only?"
Julie: Because this is Delaware, and Delaware is stupid.
I did a little desultory Googling this morning on this "Must" vs "Only" thing. I was unable to find any definitive "standard" language that sets one as the right verbiage to use. I did find a marvelously incomprehensible discussion of research on highways and exits at the Federal Highway Administration's Highway Research Center. It may be in there, but please don't make me read any more of that. If there are any highway engineers in the audience, please leave a polite note correcting me.

This standards-confusion is not unusual, by the way. In government I find many things that are assumed to be "standard" by everyone, even though there's been no official "finding," because almost everyone is following the assumed standard. And, conversely, when there is a standard officially declared, most folks in government will ignore it.

Here are two items that need additional research:
  1. What in the name of all that is oily is the derivation of the phrase "exit gore area" that I kept finding in my highway standards spelunking? The definition is "The area located immediately between the left edge of a ramp pavement and the right edge of the mainline roadway pavement at a merge or diverge area." But why "gore?" It can't be why I think it might be, can it?
  2. Why do I always type "standrads" instead of "standards?" Is it Freudian?


KB3JUV said...

Sounds like people who complain just to complain. Same with the person you noted earlier in the year who hated Delaware just because of I-95.

Roaddog said...

The term "gore point" stems from the older highway standards where off-ramps would part ways with a sharp guard rail or other type of barrier in between. So if one were to mistakenly drive into the point, they would be subsequently 'gored'.

I will admit I am fairly anal when it comes to Delaware roads. Having always contended that local road junkies are permitted to be extra anal about their home area, and I'm no exception.

Michael said...

According to this page:

"Gore" comes from Old English "Gara" which means a "triangular plot of land". So it turns our Al Gore didn't invent the Gore Area, but he is named after it.

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