Signs of better times
Ask any resident what our county needs and you’ll hear pleas for better roads, lower taxes, more jobs, less crime, and an end to bickering.
Most of us think these problems affect only our county, but they’re pretty much the same anywhere in rural America.
One reason they stick around, here and elsewhere, is that we too often look for silver bullets that can solve entire problems at once. Seldom do we consider tiny pieces of solutions that can combine to make meaningful and welcome progress. Often, these are simple things never considered or never tried.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. A couple of recent drives to Wichita provided one idea.
Getting people to visit is a first step in economic development. It helps with tourism today and, if tourists are impressed, may attract residents and businesses tomorrow. The more affluent people and businesses we attract, the lower our crime and tax rates will be.
We can’t solve all those problems at once, of course, but we can make a start. We all know that first impressions are important. What we may not know is that we’re giving off a bad one.
Many people these days use GPS systems to get turn-by-turn directions to wherever they are going, particularly if they are unfamiliar with an area. Systems vary in their sophistication, but many tend to ignore undesignated county roads and send travelers only on officially designated routes.
Drive from Wichita to Marion, for example, and try to come up Sunflower Rd. with GPS directions turned on. Some cars’ systems might allow it, but on others, every 60 seconds or so you hear a nagging message: “Turn back where possible.” What a wonderful way to greet a potential visitor!
A simple step might be to designate certain county roads as county highways. Mark them that way on maps and install at key intersections standard highway signs featuring the highway’s letter or number inside a square.
Sunflower Rd. could become County S, Nighthawk Rd. could become County N, Indigo Rd. could become County I, etc.
Unfamiliar travelers would feel a lot more comfortable visiting Pilsen by following a GPS system’s instructions to turn on County R from US-56. Hearing the name County 290 might make a motorist more comfortable driving from Lincolnville to Durham.
We’d love it if these roads could be designated state highways. That also would help the county budget. But that’s a silver bullet we’ll never find — except, perhaps, for Remington Rd. from US-56 to Pilsen, which we should constantly insist, particularly in an election year, that our state legislators push for.
County officials undoubtedly would have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops to label other hard-surfaced county roads as highways, but it would be well worth their time if we could create a better first impression at very little cost.
It also would encourage us to separately prioritize gravel roads and hard-surfaced roads, so we wouldn’t be tempted to siphon money from one to the other. That’s a win-win. And the cost is just a few signposts and some bureaucratic maneuvering.
— ERIC MEYER