Monday, November 16, 2009

Rhode Tripping

The R.I. DOT recently opened the latest phase of its Iway project. Now when travelers on Route 195 West come to the split for 95 North and South they see two big green signs. One says “New York,” the other “Boston, MA.” Just wondering but was it necessary to add the Massachusetts postal abbreviation? Is there anyone in Rhode Island who is confused about Boston's paternity? Does the R.I. DOT worry that some of the traffic is aiming for Boston, England?
Plain old “Boston” was good enough for the previous sign. The only surprise about the new Boston sign is that they didn’t slap a “Historic” in front of it, so that it could join Providence, Wakefield and East Greenwich on the “Historic” New England redundancy highway tour. Given the way language is changing these days, however, maybe we should just be grateful that the sign doesn’t include an emoticon or describe the Hub as “Bostonalicious.”

Signs of the Times
Every once in a while we get a letter-to-the-editor about sign pollution in South County. And it’s true, there do seem to be a lot of needless signs out there. Especially those blue evacuation signs, pointing drivers in the direction of the back roads of South County in case of apocalyptic natural or manmade disaster. Considering the daily road jam whenever classes let out at the University of Rhode Island or the hour-long backlog on Kingstown Road before and after concerts at the Ryan Center, the idea that we will be able to evacuate efficiently and swiftly in the event of emergency is beyond delusional. In fact, as bad ideas go, it ranks somewhere between the Ford Pinto and the Cleveland Indians’ 10-Cent Beer Night promotion at the old Municipal Stadium.

History Lesson
My frequent travels from Barrington to Warren, Bristol and Newport roughly follow the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. Rochambeau’s French Army marched from Rhode Island to Virginia in 1781. Signage along what is now Route 114 and other stretches of local asphalt identifies the Rhode Island portion of a series of encampments and roads used by the U.S. Continental Army troops under George Washington and French troops under Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau stretching 680 miles from Newport to Yorktown. The marked route now plays connect-the-dots in Rhode Island, although important landmarks like Monkey Town Road are unrecognizable today, victims to generations of urban sprawl. The full route is the most recent National Historic Trail signed into law, and is the only one of 19 such trails to include Rhode Island.

The Billboard Jungle
Around here, there have been few good billboards over the years, yet they keep going up. According to an online article on “outdoor advertising in Rhode Island,” billboards should be creative if they’re going to reach consumers who are breaking the speed limit:

Billboards advertise everything from God to gum and they are the most popular form of outdoor advertising in Rhode Island.

There’s one up now, visible from 195 West and paid for by the Reproductive Science Center, riffing off of the confusion created by re-routing the roads through Providence during the Iway project: “Need help having a baby? Left lane.”

A few years back, the Roger Williams Park Zoo erected the memorable: “Imagine going through life as a naked mole rat.”

Leading to this week’s question: What’s the best (or worst) billboard you’ve seen in Rhode Island?