Author! Author! Road Repair Signs Reflect Sha Creativity

The Scene -- County currents and unbercurrents

September 11, 1991|By Erik Nelson

Many motorists may have had a chuckle when they saw the "Unclogging our arteries" sign on eastbound U.S. 40 as it dips below U.S. 29 in Ellicott City.

I'd seen a few cute signs around the county and elsewhere, but this one, introducing the much-needed project to widen U.S. 40, seemed a tad more creative, so I asked a State Highway Administration engineer about them.

He said the sign, which is somewhat smaller than the massive hard-hat-adorned signs with such reparative messages as "We apologize forthe growing pains" and "Pardon our progress," was probably the county's first example of a stepped-up effort to come up with new catchy signs.

"It was something that we began about a year-and-a-half ago,responding to a comment that the governor had made that we had nice signs, but they were just signs and nobody was paying attention to them," said Russell Ulrich, spokesman for the State Highway Administration and leader of the creative effort.

In fact, he said, the SHA will consider ideas from ordinary citizens, who pay the gasoline tax and vehicle fees that finance these projects.

"We're certainly not able to pay anybody for their efforts," hewas quick to add, but "certainly, being able to see your sign out on the road would be a real kick for people."

So far, though, the SHA has had to rely on its owncreativity,coming up with such favorites as "prepare for sudden aggravation," and "your frustration may be growing, but so is Maryland."

"I wouldn't repeat them, but we received a couple (of suggestions)from people who were poking fun at us, and they were really nasty about it," Ulrich said.

To come up with their own ideas, SHA officials have regular sign-brainstorming sessions that include Administrator Hal Kassoff and his front-line traffic engineers.

"It really is a concerted ongoing effort. . . . Customer service is a very important part of what we do here at State Highway, and we do look at the motorist as being our customer."

Well, this motorist thinks it is a shame that my brethren haven't come to the aid of their highway administration, and to further the cause of spirited signage, I publish this address for submissions: 707 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202.

And to show I'm willing to lay down my reputation for the cause, here are my own submissions:

"Sorry for the delay/We work best in your way."

"Thanks for the wait/You must hate to be late."

"Your tax dollars at work/Don't you wish you were?"

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