I had the pleasure of driving SPC Pico back to State College after Easter dinner, and it allowed me to get some pictures of something that has really urinated me off for a while now. All of these pictures were taken on Interstate 80, Eastbound, on my way back home.
This is a standard mile marker along I-80. It’s perfectly functional, in that it does what is required: it tells drivers where they are on the road, and provides a marker for emergency responders in case of an accident. These things are very useful, and have been in use, in some form or other, for decades on American highways.
In some areas of I-80, the tenths of miles are marked with these relatively simple, inexpensive-appearing markers. They are reflective stickers on PVC posts. Along the section of I-80 which I traveled, there are many of these posts with simple reflective squares, to help drivers at night, with the tenth-mile markers among them. These markers are perfectly adequate for the purpose they serve, providing locations for emergency responders; motorists have little need, other than in emergencies, to know the mileage down to the tenth.
Now, this is where I start to get angry.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is making improvements along I-80. Much of the work is necessary: I-80 through the Keystone State is a very old road, and the riding surface has needed work for a while now. But the Commonwealth has also replaced the full mile marker signs with ones like the picture above. Interstate 80 is a limited access highway, and a motorist pretty much has to know on what road he is traveling once he gets on I-80. Further, I-80 markers, complete with direction indicators, are posted a little bit after every entrance ramp.
Why, then, does the Commonwealth need to spend the additional money to put the I-80 logo on the mile marker? It’s just a waste of money!
And where the cheap-looking tenth of a mile posts performed their function quite adequately, the Commonwealth is now replacing them with markers like this one. I-80 runs for something like 309 miles in the Keystone State; if the Commonwealth is going to replace all of the markers, that’s going to be something over 6,000 of them, at 10 per mile, in each direction.
It isn’t just on I-80. On the short stretch of Interstate 81 I traveled (near Hazleton), where road work is also being done, these new signs are also making their appearance.
The older, obviously less expensive markers did the job required perfectly adequately. Why, then, does the Commonwealth need to replace them with larger, much more expensive signs?
It’s pretty obvious: someone thought that this was a Good Idea, and pushed it through. I will even concede that the new signs are better than the old ones. But the government taxes money away from hard working people, and the government ought to be frugal with the taxpayers’ dollars. Perhaps the new signs are better, but going with the better signs is clearly not necessary. How many other good things does our state government do that seem like improvements, but are not actually necessary?
“Watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves” is an old, old saying. Maybe in the big picture, these mile markers are a small expense. But I have to wonder just how many other small expenses the Commonwealth has which seem good to someone, somewhere, but which don’t actually have to be made.