Friday, July 16, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Stimulus Signs

At almost every construction site one sees anymore, there's an extra sign that has nothing to do with warnings of a construction zone, or lane reductions, or speed limits, or the usual informational signs we've grown to groan over every summer.While on a little road trip last year, I commented on the new signage:

While on the road I saw many road projects in action and typically introduced by a sign just like this:

Made me wonder a couple of things. If the typical resentment of having to wait for road construction delays will create a negative association to the ARRA plan and associated policies... and another on a more "bean counter" level: I've seen the full color logo on everything from forms to signs now. Typically such full color stuff costs extra but perhaps the technology is improving enough for it to be an insignificant issue? It's hard to imagine that even an otherwise insignificant cost wouldn't add up with form after form, sign after sign, department of redundancy dept. government we have though.

Apparently some Republicans are attempting to make issue of it as a waste of money purely for propaganda purposes to build support for the President's policies. From the Chicago Tribune:

WASHINGTON — First-term Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois is peeved over the green highway signs that have sprouted across the U.S. touting stimulus dollars at work.

"Propaganda. An unnecessary overhead expense," argued Schock, who, like every House Republican, opposed last year's $787 billion stimulus.

Lately some Republicans have been taking aim at signage for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This month, Schock introduced a bill, the "End the Stimulus Advertisement Act," to prohibit them.

In Illinois, about 950 signs have been posted at highway, road, transit and other projects, said Josh Kauffman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The signs cost about $300 each, and it costs another $200 to install them, he said. The bottom line? About $665,000, a calculation Kauffman said is based on buying a sign and installing it in two locations.

The cost has come out of the $936 million Illinois has gotten in transportation stimulus cash, he said.

Illinois residents are no strangers when it comes to spending on road signs. Four years ago, tollway leaders were criticized for planning to drop $480,000 on 32 signs extolling "Open Road Tolling. Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor" ahead of the 2006 election.

In an interview Thursday, Schock asserted that the costs nationally have reached an estimated $20 million. His spokesman said that figure is based on reports from eight states and media accounts.

The article correctly points out that these signs are made by people, who probably enjoy a little job security in the sign building business. But it seems a bit odd to waste their time on such unnecessary and politically self-serving signs. Prior to the ARRA we still had plenty of road construction every summer here in Illinois, but now it seems that almost every project gets one of these signs... which may leave the misleading impression that almost none of the construction zones we get stuck in would be happening if not for the program extolled on the sign. This would be very doubtful. In the grand scheme of things this is a drop in the bucket of our overall spending problems, but like they say, 'a billion here, a billion there, and sooner or later you're talking about real money.

Personally I think the results should speak for themselves. And there seem to be projects more in line with the lofty goals of reinvigorating our infrastructure as the ARRA was supposed to do. Take this recent article on updating a 100 year old metra bridge, for example. There are probably numerous projects that deserve some special recognition that are more along the lines of the hype of the ARRA (Rachael Maddow recently compared it to Ike's involvement in establishing the interstate system). Slapping signs on road construction, much of which was probably likely to happen anyways? Just seems a bit pointless to me.

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