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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

A Sign Of Pure B.S.

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     Federal bean counters tell us the recession technically ended months ago.

     Tell that to someone looking for a job, or "under water" on their mortgage.

     Two groups seem to be making out quite famously during our tough economic times: road builders, who have laid waste to virtually street and bike path in town and street sign makers who have just received a windfall of biblical proportions from our federal government.

      Uncle Sam is mandating that every city, town, village and hamlet to go to lower-case signs made of special reflective materials that are more easily seen at night.    The story got major traction when one of the New York tabloids did the math and figured that the switch is going to cost the Big Apple $27 million.

      Milwaukee has to comply, and although the tab isn't nearly as ridiculous as the one in NYC, we're still going to have to spend big time dollars on something that really doesn't need fixing.    As the Journal/Sentinel's Jim Stingl so cleverly points out, the problem around town isn't so much a matter of whether the signs are upper or lower case but more a question of whether or not there's even a sign IN PLACE.    I've come across many an intersection in Milwaukee and in the suburbs where you need memory or GPS to tell you where you are, since there's no sign on a pole doing its job.    Granted, street construction felled a few markers (that's the case in Hales Corners where only natives know where they are along freshly re-done Grange--most signs between 92nd and 108th got wiped out by a summer repaving project).

      In fact, I had heard about the sign change-over a few years ago when, upon turning into my cul-de-sac I noticed a brand new spiffy green-and-white street sign, replacing one that seemed perfectly good when I left for work earlier that day.    Being the nerd I am, I called the village to find out what was up.    The public works director told me of the reflective sign mandate which ordered municipalities to switch as old signs wore out.    He made no mention of the "upper case" addendum that kicked the whole change-over into high-gear nationwide this week.

      The new signs supposedly are easier to read, and mellower to the eye.   Upper case is Internet code for SHOUTING and is seen by many as a rude last-resort.   We supposedly won't be as stressed as we go about our appointed rounds, negotiating streets adorned with lower-case signage.    Allow me to point out the fact that our freeways have featured lower-case letters for years, and we all know how stress-free our rush hours are as a result.

      Which brings me to another point: the font on the nation's Interstate is gradually being switched over, too.   The freeway type that's been in your face forever is slowly giving way to something called "Clearview".




       The new "improved" font is on the right.   The New York Times article I linked to goes into great detail about the guys who came up with it and it's alleged advantages.     Eagle-eyed Madison residents and Badgers football fans will notice Clearview if they use the Beltway south of town.   

       What is good for the the goose, though, apparently isn't good for the gander.    The Times article says the switch to Clearview is elective--you'll notice that Milwaukee's freeways still use the old font, even the recently redone Marquette which would've seemed to have been a logical place for a change: new interchange, fresh font.

        Cities, towns, villages and other burgs aren't so fortunate.    A federal mandate requires them to make the change to lower-case, sometimes at ridiculous cost.

         Sounds to me like COMPLETE  B-S.    And yes, I chose that font for a reason.

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