County's Confusing Sign Language

Taxpayers question necessity of new road signs

There are approximately 1,300 new route markers being installed around Cook County, announcing "Cook County W37 Begins" or something similar. Can you guess what that sign means?

If you're not certain, you're not alone. Many drivers are baffled by the new signs. The numbers do not correspond to state routes or U.S. highways. 'W' doesn't mean west; in fact, 'W' and 'V' (followed by a number) apply to north-south routes. East-west routes begin with 'A', 'B', or 'C'.

Um... huh?

"The signs may not mean anything to the public, but we are informing the public that these are county roads," Rupert Graham, superintendent of the county Highway Department, told the Chicago Tribune.

That's right. The alpha-numeric labels are only used by the Cook County Highway Department and have no meaning to the general public. According to county officials, the signs are to let drivers know that they are on a road owned and maintained by the county.

"We are not technically required by law to put them up," said Chris Geovanis, a spokesperson for the county. "The thinking is that with no signage, there virtually is no way for people to know who to contact if they hit a big pothole or skid on some black ice and need to report unsafe conditions."

But motorists are unconvinced, especially since they are paying for them—to the tune of $120,000—through fuel taxes.

"I wonder why it's needed in days of budget shortfalls," said Richard Smith of Tinley Park. "These signs don't serve a purpose to the motoring public, and they surely weren't cheap to produce and install."

Matt Bartosik, former blogger of The Chicago Traveler and editor of Off the Rocks' next issue, thinks drivers don't pay enough attention to signs already in place, let alone new ones.

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