Sign of the times

Right there in the U.S. Constitution, Article I Section 8, you’ll find that the delegates representing the people of the United States on Sept. 17, 1787, empowered the new federal government in writing to decide whether all the street signs in the nation shall be lettered in all-upper-case letters, or all-lower-case letters, or mostly lower-case letters with capital letters used only at the beginning of “big words.”

Really, it’s in there, right between the power “to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization” and … um … wait a minute, we’re sure it’s here somewhere.

Well, OK, the federal government has no such delegated power. But when has that ever stopped it? So the geniuses in Washington have now announced communities around America are going to be required to change street name signs from all capital letters to a combination of capital and lower-case letters.

The more crucial traffic signs, meantime, will also have to be updated to make them “more reflective.”

“As drivers get older, we want to make sure they’re able to read the signs,” says FHWA administrator Victor Mendez. “Research shows that older drivers are better able to read signs when they’re written in both capital and small letters. It’s really driven by safety.”

But wouldn’t it be even safer if an approaching car triggered a really loud horn followed by a recorded message? After all, cost is no object … right?

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, some communities are a little short of funds for all the whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries Washington would like to lay on.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, whose city will spend about $1.4 million on new signs over the next four years, told USA Today. “Our street signs have worked perfectly well for 100 years or more. I think it’s just the federal government run amok.”

In Las Vegas, city spokeswoman Debby Ackerman says the city has already begun replacing old signs with mixed upper-and-lower-case versions. Signs made prior to 2004 will be replaced through their regular life cycle of seven to 10 years, at no added cost to city coffers, Ms. Ackerman says.

Maybe. We just wonder — in an era when Washington now borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends, and a grown man could give himself a hernia trying to lift each month’s new production of federal regulations … is there anything in which the bureaucrats of Washington feel they lack the time, resources or expertise to meddle?

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