"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Your Federal Tax Dollars (NOT) at Work

Last summer a crew traveled the major highways of Alaska, financed with Federal tax dollars.  Their mission was to plant fluorescent orange "safety" poles on some of the more challenging curves along those highways.

Because I thought the poles ugly, I carefully avoided them while taking photos along the highway last summer.  I tried to find something nice to think about those poles and finally came up with, "Well, they'll help in the winter when it's dark so much of the time."

This recent photo was taken near Cooper Landing in an area that didn't get as much snow.  Notice the flat top on the snowbank, inside the poles?  That's created by a wing blade on the road grader  trying to move the snow away from the road.  It would be much wider if those poles weren't there.

The thing is, I didn't see any of them all winter because they were covered with snow.  This was an unusually high snowfall winter, to be sure, but because the poles were placed so close to the asphalt, they'd be covered with snow in average snowfall winters anyway.

Front end loader pushing snow away from road.
The crews that maintain the roads began using front end loaders to push the snow away from the asphalt a couple months ago.  This serves many purposes, such as making room for new snow to go when the sand trucks with their belly blades plow.

There's another reason, too.  Now that the snow is slowly melting, the melt water doesn't run across the asphalt and cause all kinds of dangers and problems during these continual freeze/thaw cycles.

Your Federal tax money not at work.

Pushing that snow away from the road also reveals those orange poles for the first time since last November.

Lots of good they did.  I didn't like them when they went in, and I certainly don't like them all bent and pushed over.

One reason I didn't like them to begin with:  on a recent trip to Anchorage, a distance of approximately 90 miles to the outskirts of that city, I counted more than 250 signs that drivers had to be aware of.  I'm sure I missed some that were buried by the high banks of snow.

This was taken in Turnagain Pass.  The highway is divided here, and the highway crews have to use a snow blower to clear this area.

That didn't include the culvert and guardrail flags, business signs, etc.  Just the signs that drivers needed to note.  And by the way, Alaska doesn't allow billboards.

It's no wonder drivers miss the important signs, like dangerous curves and speed limits.  We're suffering from sign overload. 

We're also suffering from something else:  Just because it works somewhere else, doesn't mean it will work in Alaska.

There's an old Alaskan saying, "We don't care how they do it Outside."  (The "Outside" refers to anywhere outside of Alaska, but generally refers to the other states.)  It might sound flip and obstinate, but there's much wisdom behind that saying, wisdom gained from many years of living and surviving in a harsh and unforgiving land.

And without fluorescent orange poles.


  1. Worry not, Gully – there's probably some opportunistic lobbyist already working hard to convince someone in government to spend even more taxpayer bucks installing a whole better style of pole that's much taller (and of course more expensive because of its extra length).

  2. I have in doubt that will happen. ;)

  3. No, no,no,Auto correct. I HAVE NO doubt......

  4. You said it. That's why "one size fits all" for 50 magnificent, completely different states doesn't work -- sure wastes a lot of our money, though. Gosh, those orange sticks uglify the landscape.

  5. yep, obviously the Sign Placement Dept is in Arizona! "Snowplows? Whats that?"