As I was driving home over the weekend, I noticed Route 20 was under construction just before my subdivision. Route 20 has been torn up several times since we’ve lived here. However, as I was waiting to merge left I noticed something new. A large green sign stood on the side of the road, explaining this construction was courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I took a look at the project specs on-line. The plan is to resurface much of Route 20 all the way to the Iowa state line. Our little resurfacing project here in Boone County is a little less than six miles long and is expected to cost a bit over three million dollars.
I’m no civil engineer, but three million dollars for six miles of road seemed a little pricey. Every few years, I hire someone to do my driveway. It runs me about fifty bucks. Doing the math and doubling the answer (Route 20 is wider than my driveway in places), I ended up with a $60,000 estimate. Surely that had to be on the high side; my dad is always telling me I pay too much and I should do it myself. Excepting the life-size bronze statue of President Obama gazing heroically towards Marengo (I kid!), where was the rest of the three million dollars going? Well, there is more to a shovel ready project than the shovels. The workers wouldn’t live long if they started digging up the road without warning the drivers. You need traffic cones, barricades, barrels, and a whole slew of signage.
I found a company in Bloomington that specialized in traffic and construction signs. I don’t know if IDOT chose them, but I thought they were a good choice. They’re local; the project will not only keep construction jobs, but also keep a few sign-making jobs here in Illinois. Also, we’re close enough to Bloomington to qualify for free next-day delivery. They sell traffic cones in bundles of ten and – ordered in bulk – they’re less than $1.60 a piece. The cones need to be spaced every fifteen feet; that’s almost two-thousand traffic cones. Actually, cones would not be required for the entire six mile stretch of road; they are mostly at the beginning and end of the construction area. The middle part is dominated by barricades and traffic barrels. Unfortunately, both cost significantly more than their little orange buddies. A basic sawhorse barricade, painted black and reflective white, runs about ninety dollars. Barrels run about sixty-five, but that doesn’t include the cost of water to fill them up. On top of that, the little blinking yellow lights are additional. They cost $20 each without batteries. Luckily, the construction zone runs past Wal Mart here in Boone County. D-Cells were on sale over the weekend (each light takes four D cells). When the workers stop to get batteries, they could also get their fill of water from the dispensers in the back by the soft drink aisle.
The project planners saved themselves a lot of money on lane paint. The quick drying latex runs about $70 / gallon and that doesn’t include a mix of reflective beads to make a glow in the dark traffic Blizzard. Instead they opted to use Portable Variable Message Boards (PVM’s in the industry). These solar powered signs announced the lanes were unmarked for the next five miles and to use caution. Unfortunately, a three line PVM costs about $15,000. It might have been cheaper to just buy the paint, especially when factored in with the pairs of arrow boards set up to blind motorists half a mile away. They run about $4,000 each. Metal construction signs come in different sizes and grades. I believe the resurfacing project should use the top of the line. It’s a good investment. This is Illinois; they’ll be used again somewhere. Each orange sign costs $190 and includes such familiar favorites as ROAD WORK AHEAD, RIGHT LANE CLOSED AHEAD, WORKERS, BRIDGE OUT, FRESH OIL and many, many others. One bargain was a large 48 x 24 inch sign in brilliant fluorescent orange. It ran $74.50, but no taxpayer behind the wheel would quibble over the cost if they could see this sign coming up ahead: