Plus ça change…

I was reading A History of Elm Park Worcester by Rudy J. Favretti yesterday, and I found the following of interest:

“As soon as there were attractive elements constructed in Elm Park, it became an attractant to vandals.  In 1876, Lincoln reports that ‘hoodlums’ committed ‘outlawry’ in the Park.  Vandalism remained a persistent problem for a year later [Edward Winslow] Lincoln [then-chairman of the precursor to the Parks Commission; also, I totally would have dated him if I’d been alive in the mid-1800s] complained that the new cedar bridge was defaced.  All of this prompted him to request that the City provide a ‘mounted officer’ to patrol the Park.” [p. 15]

“With virtual completion of the Park, attendance grew rapidly, for walking and admiring the wildlife and flowers and shrubs during the summer, and for ice-skating during the winter.  But with this increase in use came an increase in vandalism.  Dogs ran rampant fouling the place and attacking waterfowl.” [p.19]

And a couple of pages later — vandalism upon vandalism.  The heron fountain – vandalized!  There was a leash law passed in 1889 — and no one followed it! 

The report itself is great reading.  I have no idea what E. W. Lincoln looked like (though if it was anything like his father, perhaps I wouldn’t  have dated him) but he seems to have displayed a rare combination of vision and tenacity that I find irresistible. 

(As another aside, does anyone know if it’s true that “Edward Winslow” changed his name to that from “John Waldo”?)

Another blast from the past

From reader Mike, who now lives in Seattle, a picture of Gross Court’s old sign, which includes the “Private Street Dangerous” designation we all know and fear. He says he “took it about 20 years ago on a visit back to Worcester. Gross Ct. was a ‘paper road’ off of Austin Street between Queen & Piedmont; I don’t think it exists any more (from what I could see on Google Street view).”

Mike also notes that in Seattle, they’re replacing their street signs from the 1950s and that citizens have an opportunity to buy the old signs. I would have loved to see that happen in Worcester, not least because we could have recouped much of the cost of any sign-replacement program with selling the older signs.

He also thought the readership would appreciate this sign blooper from Seattle:

(I would like to thank readers who have been sending me pictures. It has been one of the great pleasures of writing here to correspond with and meet so many people who love Worcester, and it’s just an added perq to see these pictures.)

When height matters

Some of the new street name signs in Worcester are out of compliance with MUTCD standards, which require 6-inch uppercase letters.

Here’s one where the letters are 5 inches tall (click the image to see the measurement):

That sign was installed about a year and a half ago.  It replaced a sign that had 6-inch letters.  That were perfectly legible.

Here’s an egregious example from Frederick St. (off Lincoln St.):

Those letters are 4.125 inches tall.   That sign was installed about 2 years ago, replacing a sign that had 6-inch tall letters.

Diagonally across Lincoln St. you’ll see another newish sign for Northampton St. (sans heart graphic):

That one has letters that are only 4 inches tall!

How about our new favorite, “Roxburyry St.”, off Highland?

Just installed in the past few weeks, this one has letter heights of 4.75 inches.

So what’s the common denominator here, besides an inability on the DPW’s part to use a ruler?  Most of the replacement signs have hearts on them.  That seems to be the driving force behind Worcester’s sign replacement program — NOT meeting MUTCD requirements, as has been claimed . . . because many of the new signs are uncompliant, as opposed to the vast majority of 30 year old signs, like this one:

. . . which featured letters that are fully 6 inches tall:

Meanwhile some of our older yellow signs, often barely legible, go unreplaced.

Councilor Lukes recently introduced the subject of sign replacement, asking whether there was an unfunded FHWA mandate to replace signs for the sake of using mixed-case lettering.  As has been pointed out here previously, this is a misreading of the MUTCD guidelines, and has been debunked by Snopes.

There IS an expensive and unnecessary mandate about sign replacement in Worcester, but it is generated locally — whether by the City Manager’s office, the DPW&P, or both — to replace Worcester street name signs for the sake of the heart graphic.  Mixed case doesn’t seem to matter — the new signs do it that way and also all caps, depending on the sign worker’s mood of that day.  Meeting MUTCD guidelines for letter height — a GENUINE requirement for new signs — doesn’t seem to matter to the folks at DPW&P’s sign shop.  The letter heights on new signs range anywhere from 4 inches to 6 inches and lots of heights in between.

The expensive and unnecessary “heart mandate” costs us in two ways:

1. The materials & labor to create & install the replacement sign


2. The materials and labor that will be required to replace many of those signs YET AGAIN, since the letter heights on many of them are not MUTCD-compliant.

The “unnecessary” part of this is the cruelest irony — most of the pre-2000 green signs in Worcester have 6 inch letters and need not be replaced per the MUTCD until they reach the natural end of their usefulness, whether through fading, damage, etc.  In most cases there was no need to replace these . . . except to get a heart graphic on there.

This was pointed out here on this blog nearly a year ago.  I filed a petition this past spring to have the sign replacement program temporarily stopped so that we could examine this, but my petition was ignored.  So we’ve spent many more months replacing MUTCD-compliant signs with non-compliant ones. In the midst of the worst recession in decades.  When our potholes go unfilled and valuable city employees lose their jobs.

Perhaps no one at city hall was paying attention, so let’s say it again:

Worcester is replacing MUTCD-compliant signs with non-compliant ones.

Let me clear my throat and see if the message can penetrate the city manager’s office:

Worcester is replacing MUTCD-compliant signs with non-compliant ones.

One more time for the DPW&P, because Mr. Moylan was a couple of miles away replacing the Roxburyry St. sign :

Worcester is replacing

MUTCD-compliant signs

with non-compliant ones.

Can we stop the madness now?  The heart graphic is not that important.  Leave any and all MUTCD-compliant signs in place, focus on replacing the old yellow signs which are NOT compliant . . . and then have a look at all the “new” signs that have been erected in the past decade and try to undo the damage by replacing those whose letter heights are now non-compliant.