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What is it about the subject of “roads” that often gets people all riled up? Our pastor back home – Rev. Kellogg – would often begin his Sunday sermon with a bible quote like: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
“At least they’re paved,” some in the congregation would mumble loudly under their breath. “Wish we could do a little paving with the roads around here,” another would mumble.
Nothing heated up a town meeting like the topic of town roads and road maintenance. Should the town buy a new truck and plow-package, or should we buy both, or neither. The arguments were endless.
A recent newspaper article made me think of Rev. Kellogg and his interest in roads to where ever. The articles were about a plan by the Department of Transportation to remove several dozen “information signs” from interstate highways 95 and 295. It’s not surprising that when one group comes forward and says it wants to do something – like remove dozens of signs from the state’s two major highways - another group will come forward and say: “Don’t you dare.”
Proponents of sign removal say many of the signs don’t meet “federal standards.” Nothing will get some Mainers going more than the mention of federal standards. They say: “What do bureaucrats in Washington know about Maine roads?
Proponents of the sign-removal plan cite a sign near a southern Maine informing motorists that “miles of sandy beaches” can be experienced by taking the next exit. Since Maine’s coast is often pictured as rugged and rocky, most tourists are surprised to learn that we not only have a little sand along the coast but “miles” of what can be described “beaches.” There are some who have lived in Maine all their lives and never seen more than a few hundred feet of sand in one place.
Some critics of the DOT plan say the highways need more information signs not less. They say such signs encourage tourists to visit out of the way places and those visits help the economy of our smaller towns.
I agree with the “more signs” crowd.
We don’t need signs directing people to L.L. Bean in Freeport. Everyone already knows where they are. But where’s the sign directing tourists to the birthplace of Chester Greenwood, inventor of the earmuff. Oh, yeah, go ahead and laugh but ol’ Chester is sure appreciated in winter when you’re outside and the wind chill is 40-below.
And where’s the sign directing throngs of tourists to Frank Anicetti’s Moxie Museum in Lisbon Falls? Huh?
While they’re at it, they could put up a sign informing tourists about the Egg Festival held each year in Pittsfield. And the Stanley brothers, inventors of the Stanley Steamer, deserve a little recognition out on the highway.
The hometowns of Margaret Chase Smith (Skowhegan), Ed Muskie (Rumford) and Bill Cohen (Bangor) could all use information signs.
Maine’s sports heroes could use an informational sign or two. I’m reminded of Bob Stanly, the Red Sox Hall of Famer and Portland native. The interstate also needs a sign directing people to Cherryfield, hometown of right-hand pitcher Carlton Willey. And where’s the highway sign for Louis Sockalexus, a member of the Penobscot tribe and the first Native American to play in the major leagues.
The more I think about it the more good ideas I come up with. I now think we could probably use a few hundred MORE signs on our highways rather than a few dozen less. I don’t think they’ve thought this plan through. If they need any more advice I’m standing by and will be more than willing to give it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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