16 July 2008

Another roads proposal

Mah ass hurts right now, so I don't feel much like blogging this evening. So here is something I wrote some time ago, now freshly downloaded from my hard drive and poasted for your reading pleasure:


A Proposal for a Statewide Parish Road Numbering System

With the collapsing economy soon to make a negative impact on the Louisiana state government’s fiscal outlook (despite whatever seems to be the case right now), it seems likely that in the long term the state will have to reduce its obligations in areas in which it is already overextended. The responsibility for minor state highways is one of those areas in which it is probable that obligations and maintenance therewith may be turned over to local governments. The potential loss of state mileage, while having a number of effects, will be important to the average motorist only in one manner – the numbers and designations of those state routes will perish, the roads to be absorbed into the various parish road systems.

The route designation practices of the parish road systems are neither as visible nor as readily discernible to the motorist. Visible numbering practices are generally restricted to rural areas and there is no standardization of practices among local jurisdictions. Some systems employ an alphanumeric approach to designation, some base numbering on wards or road districts, and so on. Oftentimes local designations may exist on paper but are minimally signed in the field, if at all. This, when taken together, creates a hodgepodge system to local route numbering that does not lend itself to easy use or interpretation.

Certain states employ systematic approaches to designation of local roads. Alabama employs a system of county route numbering that covers the majority of major local roads in the state. Some counties, such as Baldwin, go one step further and number their county routes on a grid, with lower numbers on one end of the county and progressing upward. This system is specific to each county, however, with no assurances of consistency over county boundaries, and duplications between counties are possible.

In Florida, the county routes are by and large former secondary state routes that were downloaded to the counties in the late 1970s. These roads retain their state numbers and integrate with the larger state highway system, with the exception of the differences in shields of course. Florida’s state highway system numbering pattern, however, is an orderly grid-based system which guarantees consistency in numbering by region. Louisiana has no such system.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has created a standard statewide county route numbering system, shaped as an alphanumeric grid that covers the state in a system of zones or tiers, with letters corresponding to a road direction. While states such as Michigan and California use this numbering system in a “cluster” manner, the state of Iowa employs this system to its fullest extent and in the manner which it was intended to be used. It is easy to do so since the entire statewide road network is overwhelmingly grid-based per the standard township survey grid. This system contains duplications between counties, but the duplications are based entirely on coincidence of location within the grid and thus can be taken as ‘continuations’ of a given alphanumeric designation within another jurisdiction.

While roads in Louisiana for the most part do not follow an established grid (with the exception of certain parishes and regions), the grid system can still be applied with careful planning. For the most part, the prime candidates for parish numbering are the potentially large number of minor state highways that would be without designation if they were turned over to the parishes. Other candidates include important parish-maintained thoroughfares and spurs to outlying or isolated communities.

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