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Can We Get There From Here?

Aug 3, 2008
In 1925 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation set guidelines for numbering U.S. and interstate highways. For example, a three-digit interstate always ends with the two-digit number of the main interstate it loops off - except for I-238. Three-digit road numbers beginning with even numbers are always beltways that go around a city - except when they go through a city. Is it just me or did our transportation officials use new math for these guidelines?

In 1974 the National Speed Law went into effect. Because of the 1973 oil crisis and the need to conserve gas, the law made 55 mph the maximum speed limit. In 1995 the law was repealed and the ability to set speed limits was returned to the states. Again maybe it's just me, but with gas prices now over $4 a gallon that might have been a mis-state.

In all fifty states road signs are colored coded. Warning signs are yellow and construction signs are orange. Motorist service signs are blue and public interest signs are brown. Then there are parking signs. All parking signs are rectangular, but the green and white ones control parking and the red and white ones restrict it. Oh yes, and if a policeman asks me what's black and white and read all over, I know he means a speed limit sign - not a newspaper.

I live in Los Angeles. I can't speed anywhere at rush hour. That means my driving is limited to the hours between 10 am and 3 pm. That's workable unless one of the thousands and thousands of other cars on the freeways runs out of gas or has an accident. Then traffic backs up for miles as drivers turn into lookyloos. I moved to LA from New York. Drivers there don't slow down to look at accidents. In fact, they don't slow down if they're involved in accidents. Now when I'm in traffic, it's the traffic that's driving - me crazy.

I have to remind myself traffic could be worse. I could be in Beijing. To reduce pollution for the summer Olympics, Beijing residents are restricted to driving every other day, depending on whether their license plates end with odd or even numbers. After the Olympics all 3.3 million cars will be back on the streets and that number will increase by 1,000 cars a day. Soon Beijing will have a lock on gridlock.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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