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AARoads in the News!

This page shows some places where AARoads has appeared in the news. In addition, several webpages use images from our website. Some examples include:

"Yahoo! Pick from January 27, 2002: As Americans travel the great roads and highways of the country, they seldom consider the magnitude of the system that connects one coast to the other. Created by enthusiasts eager to share pictures, stories, and information about our country's highways, the site winds through the desolate roads of Nevada, the numerous freeways of San Diego, and beyond. As you cruise through the site, keep your eyes peeled for the Sign Gallery, an amazing collection of photographs of interstate, U.S., and state highway shields, gantries, and signs from every state. (in Recreation & Sports)"

Alex Nitzman was interviewed by Mark Drucker of KYW News Radio 1060 (Philadelphia) February of 2003. The telephone interview regarding the Delaware Highways Page and Philadelphia highway guides on AARoadtrips.com aired during latter May 2003. Topics discussed included the Walt Whitman Bridge, New Jersey Turnpike, and Interstate 95.

The most recent article to feature AARoads appeared in the Sunday, September 22, 2002, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in the article "'Road geeks' ramp up their hobby on the information superhighway: Hundreds of Internet sites are dedicated to signage, interchanges -- and bloopers -- found on the nation's roadways," by William Lamb.

    It is a safe bet that most of the motorists who flood the region's highways each morning find little amid the expanse of asphalt to inspire them. For most of us, highways are things to be endured, not enjoyed.

    And then there are people like Brian Dowd.

    Dowd, 25, of Bellefontaine Neighbors, fell in love with highways as a child in northwest Indiana, watching the roads unspool from the back seat of the family car. By the third grade, he had read the Indiana driver's manual that his parents kept in the glove compartment, memorizing the part that explained how the interstate highways were numbered.

    More recently, Dowd has found an outlet for his obsession on the Internet, where he is compiling an exit-by-exit guide to the region's interstates on a Web site, complete with detailed notes and more than 500 photographs.

    The World Wide Web is littered with literally hundreds of sites maintained by people who share Dowd's passion. These self-avowed "road geeks" have made highways their hobby, one they approach with the same zeal and expertise that others bring to bird-watching or stamp collecting.

    "A lot of people think it's kind of strange," Dowd, a software engineer, acknowledged. "I don't know. There's a culture for this just as there is a culture for other things, whether you like a certain pop star or a certain movie series, or whether you're a Trekkie."

    Where most see a bland expanse of striped asphalt, Dowd sees beauty in a carefully ordered network of roads that winds through nearly every corner of the continental United States.

    But he is also fixated on the nuts-and-bolts issues of highway signage and maintenance, and he tries not to let more than a week or so go by without snapping a few pictures of the interchange reconstruction project at Interstates 170 and 270. He posts them on his Web site so visitors can monitor its progress.

    Meanwhile, Ben Prusia, 18, of Overland Park, Kan., finds a certain pathos in lonely stretches of decommissioned highways, such as the old U.S. Highway 66, that he has photographed for his Web site, kcroads.com/ShowMe/StLouis/index.html. And Kim Harvey, 23, of Roxana, has made a sport of spotting misprints and omissions on highway signs, and posting pictures of them at stlhighways.org.

    Harvey's site, perhaps the most comprehensive stop on the Internet for St. Louis-area road buffs, features a frequently updated roundup of ongoing construction projects, as well as a guide to area speed traps. There also is a page of copiously detailed histories of the interstates and major U.S. highways that wind through the area - the product of hours spent rummaging through newspaper and government archives.

    The highlight, however, is the photo page, where Harvey has collected dozens of "blooper" pictures taken between Irvington, Ill., and Jefferson City of road signs with missing exit tabs, botched exit numbers, incorrect colors and misspelled city names. Though few of these mistakes would register with the average motorist, each violates strict rules spelled out in the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a book that many die-hard road geeks have committed to memory.

    Perhaps the most flagrant error documented on Harvey's site is the "Forest Park Pkyw" exit sign that was posted on southbound Interstate 170 for three days in November 2000. The Missouri Department of Transportation quickly replaced it with a correct "Forest Park Pkwy" sign, but not before one of Harvey's contributors, Rich Piehl, managed to snap a photo of it.

    "Technically they're wasting taxpayer money making these mistakes," said Harvey, who has little patience for such bureaucratic blunders. "I see it happen all the time. Sometimes it's the spelling, sometimes it's the wrong exit number. It happens everywhere."

    Tom Miller, a spokesman with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said that traffic engineers in the department's St. Louis Metro District are familiar with each of the local road geek Web sites and have developed a grudging respect for the people responsible for them.

    Miller owned up to the "Forest Park Pkyw" goof and acknowledged that Harvey, who "gets into some very specific sign standards," has documented scores of legitimate errors. Whether the department will get around to correcting each of them is another story, Miller said.

    "One of our traffic engineers will look at this and say, sure, to the strictest letter of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, it's a mistake," he said. "Then you have to look at it and ask, is it to a point where we need to dismantle the sign and put something back up immediately? Is it to the point where it is confusing and dangerous to the public?"

    Miller explained that the district has only so much money - about $980,000 in 2001 - to spend on new signs.

    "Unless it becomes a really big thing," he said, "we'll get to it when we can."

    An Internet phenomenon

    Road enthusiasm is a phenomenon that developed with the Internet. People who for years thought they were the only ones who eagerly awaited the release of the new Rand McNally road atlases each fall suddenly stumbled on to hundreds of people with whom they could trade pictures, share ideas and debate the finer points of interchange design.

    In addition to hundreds of Web sites, there is a newsgroup, misc.transport.road, where the discussion meanders from road-trip routing and construction projects to quirks and inconsistencies in signage. (There is a perennial debate, for example, over whether westbound Interstate 64 ends at Interstate 270, as by-the-book purists insist it should, or at the Daniel Boone Bridge. Miller, the Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman, confirms the bridge is the current terminus.)

    "I always thought, 'There's no way that other people could be interested in this stuff,'" said Andy Field, 30, of San Diego. "And lo and behold, there were."

    Field and his friend Alex Nitzman, 27, of Mobile, Ala., maintain www.aaroads.com, a site with an exhaustive guide to the interstate highway system that many road buffs agree is the best of its kind.

    Field's highway obsession developed from a childhood fascination with road maps. These days it finds its outlet in an ambitious undertaking: He and Nitzman have set out to drive the entire interstate highway system - all 45,000-plus miles of it - piece by piece, and document the journey online. They have posted logs of the legs they have already completed at www.aaroadtrips.com.

    Like most road geeks - and, for the record, Field prefers to be called a "road enthusiast" or a "road scholar" - he has trouble articulating the appeal of his after-hours pursuit.

    "It's like deconstructing why someone loves baseball," said Field, a budget analyst. "It's just a passion, something I consider to be my hobby. It's a lot of fun."

    Still, a few enthusiasts admit that they sometimes wonder whether they've taken their enthusiasm too far.

    Dowd says the trips he has made to amass photographs for his Web site account for many, if not most, of the 36,000 miles he has put on his 2001 Chrysler Sebring since he bought it last year.

    And Dan Bruno, 28, a Missouri Department of Transportation traffic engineer who has contributed photographs to Harvey's site, said his wife has forbid him from snapping pictures of road signs on their vacations since she caught him in the act on their honeymoon.

    But on balance, road enthusiasts say their hobby is enjoyable, rewarding and healthy.

    "I think a lot of people take the roads for granted," Dowd said. "They're there. When they close the left two lanes because they're doing a bridge project, then people are angry because, well, that added 20 minutes to their commute. They may not think, 'Why are they doing that?'

    "But it's a system," he said. "It's a system of roads. I drive these roads just about every day. I can't think of a time in my life where I was more than 10 miles from the closest interstate freeway. It's part of who I am."

    "Road geek" glossary

    • BGS: An unofficial road-geek acronym for the "big green signs" along and above interstate highways.
    • Button copy: Letters or characters on signs with inlaid reflective buttons for nighttime visibility. Most states have phased out these signs in favor of signs with reflective green surfaces.
    • Control city: The city listed on highway signs indicating the road's next major destination. For example, signs along eastbound Interstate 70 east of Columbia, Mo., use St. Louis as the control city.
    • Expressway: A divided highway with no driveways. Stoplights, however, are allowed.
    • Freeway: Generally speaking, a controlled-access road with no cross traffic. Most interstate highways are freeways.
    • Gore: The triangle of pavement or grass where exit lanes diverge from freeways.
    • Multiplex: When two or more highways converge and share the same roadway. The Poplar Street Bridge carries more multiplexed Interstates (55, 64 and 70) than any other section of highway in the United States except for a 30-mile stretch where Interstates 39, 90 and 94 converge north of Madison, Wis.
    • MUTCD (pronounced MUT-sid): The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Issued by the Federal Highway Administration, it defines the standards for the installation and maintenance of signs, signals and pavement markings along roads and highways. Serious road geeks have committed its contents to memory.

Perhaps the largest newspaper to feature an article about AARoads was the Los Angeles Times, which featured this piece in its May 14, 2002, "Behind the Wheel" column, which is found weekly each Tuesday.

    Road Scholars Driven to Go the Extra Mile: A small but dedicated band of buffs spends free time studying and, yes, traveling the state's highways and byways.

    By Lisa Leff

    Some people in California--perhaps the majority of them--see highways as a necessary nuisance, something to complain about on the way to and from work, maybe, but certainly not worth contemplating during their free time.

    Then there are people like Mike Ballard.

    He once spent three vacation days voluntarily organizing old records at Caltrans' Sacramento headquarters, where the librarian knows him by name. He owns 40 years' worth of Chevron gas station maps, and a set of concrete road markers adorns his front yard. He has adopted a two-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Kern County so he'll have an excuse for legally parking on the freeway, getting out of his car and poking around. In other words, roads are Ballard's hobby, one he devotes himself to with the same enthusiasm others reserve for bird-watching or collecting vintage glassware. A sometime college student and Santa Clarita native, he may be the only person ever to set a goal of driving the entire California highway system--all 16,622.16 miles of it. It only seems fair to ask: Why?

    "I ask myself that often, and I'm not totally sure," laughs Ballard, 23. "I chalk it up to my curiosity. I'm just always wondering what places once looked like."

    Although Ballard's obsession might seem a little offbeat, he is not the only native son with a serious road trip. He is part of a small but dedicated group of highway enthusiasts who spend their leisure hours thinking about, studying and, yes, driving the state's roads, making a serious pastime of something most folks take for granted.

    Where the average motorist observes only a uniform blur of green and white whizzing past the windshield, for example, Joel Windmiller of Sacramento finds human foible in freeway signs and scours every one for misspellings and other bureaucratic bloopers. And while other drivers probably give little thought to the nonsequential numbers identifying state highways, Daniel Faigin, an aerospace engineer from North Hills, sees them as pieces of an intriguing puzzle.

    After researching the history behind every highway naming and numbering, Faigin, 42, published his route-by-route findings on a Web site, www.cahighways.org. The project led to other interests, and his site now includes pages on proposed transportation legislation, updates on actions of the California Transportation Commission, and the latest Caltrans news.

    "When you start looking at the history of highways, it takes you into a lot of areas, like railroads, architecture and politics," said Faigin, who attributes his own status as a self-described "road geek" to his "very geographic mind."

    Like Faigin and Ballard, Andy Field, 29, of San Diego has been fascinated with highways for as long as he can remember. During car rides with his family as a child, he would pore over maps and imagine what towns he'd never visit looked like.

    "Getting a road atlas was like a major gift for me," Field said. "I would write in them where I thought roads should be."

    He abandoned the pastime when he was in high school--"It wasn't in vogue. No one wanted to go out and look at road signs with me"--only to rediscover it during college in Wyoming. "I went back to my atlas and plotted how I would renumber all the interstate and U.S. routes in the country," he said. But it wasn't until he returned to California and discovered a road-related Internet newsgroup that he felt comfortable identifying himself as a highway groupie.

    According to Field, "disbelief and relief" were his reaction upon realizing, "Oh, my God! There are other people out there like me. Finally, I have someone I can talk to about this stuff."

    After meeting online, he and several other California-based highway buffs have become friends who accompany each other on field trips. Last spring, a group of seven people that included Field, Faigin and Casey Cooper, 28, a road enthusiast from Orange County, spent a day exploring bridges, new freeway construction and signage in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. (An account of their outing, complete with pictures, is available on Field's Web site, www.aaroads.com.)

    When they are not on the road, they indulge their hobby by reading. Windmiller, the Sacramento-based highway junkie, regularly visits Caltrans headquarters to scout out the latest reports for his friends. Cooper is the envy of his traveling companions because he owns a lot of back issues of "California Highways and Public Works," a magazine published by Caltrans' predecessor from 1911 until 1967.

    "I read them all the time," he said. "It's fascinating to me because these are historical documents and they offer a lot of insight of how people thought back then. Whether they are talking about highway projects in terms of jobs during the Depression or building freeways to service the suburbs during the 1950s, ultimately, roads are a metaphor."

    Although their areas of interest overlap, each has a slightly different take on roads. Ballard and Cooper, for instance, are chiefly attracted to historic roads. Faigin is into the numbers. Field is a generalist who takes equal delight in studying interchange design, considering ways to improve the state's signage standards, and taking the time to stop and smell the asphalt.

    Of them all, though, none is so committed a highwayman as Mike Ballard. How committed is he? Suffice to say that he grows wistful while discussing the history of the Santa Clarita segment of Sierra Highway, which once served as part of the main highway linking Los Angeles to Lancaster.

    The road, which was first posted as State Route 7, then U.S. Route 6 and finally State Route 14, lost its highway designation altogether after construction of the Antelope Valley Freeway in 1963. Ballard paid the company that makes Caltrans' road markers $35 to make him a custom "U.S. 6" shield. He took it out there one afternoon so he could experience what the route looked like in its heyday.

    "Once you go along the old roads, you start seeing old gas stations and old restaurants that don't get much business anymore," he said. "They were once part of the main road and now they've been delegated to some side road, and that's if you're lucky."

    Two-and-a-half years ago, Ballard fulfilled his ambition of traveling every highway mile in California. He made most of the journey in his 1965 Ford Ranchero. The leg that took the longest to complete, Route 271 south of Eureka, is also one of his favorites. "I ended up walking part of it where it was closed because of a landslide," he said.

    Although he spread his journey over a couple of years, he estimates it took him about three months of actual driving time. It would have taken longer if he hadn't given himself credit for routes he'd already traveled.

    You'd think he would be sick of pounding the pavement after so many miles, but if anything, his appreciation has deepened. He is writing a book about U.S. 99, the former Los Angeles-to-Bakersfield route that, to Ballard's thinking, is just as significant as its more famous cousin, Route 66. And he still enjoys hitting the highway. He has been revisiting the roads he particularly liked on his travels, this time on a bicycle.

    "With an old road, there are only two ways it's best done: in a Model T, which I've yet to experience, or on a bike, so you are going slow enough to see everything and enjoy it more," he said.

The North County Times has an ongoing series related to road matters in Northern San Diego County called "On the Road" by Dan Weisman. He interviewed Andy three times during 2001 and 2002 related to road issues in the Greater San Diego region, especially in the northern part of San Diego County.

The first of these articles ran on September 11, 2001, but of course, given the events of that day, no one actually read the article (I don't think anyone read their newspapers that morning). So in case you missed it, here is a copy of our first article, For Andy Field, the road goes on forever:

    Call it a jinx. Call it karma. Call it what you will but as we left Highway 78 last time, I made a fateful comment regarding a certain oversized, drain-sucking bit of Caltrans heavy machinery that backed up traffic for miles on end. The so-called vactor truck. I hoped never to see it again. So, driving down San Marcos Boulevard with the next road trip in mind, I looked up and two words filled the entire expanse of the front windshield. "VACTOR TRUCK." Yes, it was. A vactor truck the size of a skyscraper filled the entire field of vision, swerved and cut me off. I never want to see it again. Let's leave it at that.

    On to my source: Andy Field, the legendary chronicler of the open road. Field has devoted a great deal of time and energy to his calling as a "road enthusiast." He has traveled more highways than you and everyone you know combined, cataloguing them, taking pictures and providing links of every imaginable sort to any conceivable road-related subject. You definitely want to check out Andy's efforts ---- along with partner Alex Nitzman ---- beginning at http://www.aaroads.com/index.html.

    I was shocked at our meeting. I imagined Andy to be a grizzled old veteran of the open road. But this was a young dude. Looked like he could have been at the Radiohead concert or hanging with a surfboard at the Pipes in Cardiff. But as you will appreciate in coming weeks, Andy is a go-to guy when it comes to roads here and anywhere. This guy's enthusiasm and knowledge goes on forever ---- as do the roads he loves. But first, Andy established one road rule. I am not allowed to say what he does in "real" life. "Don't mention my occupation," he said. "Just call me a government worker."

    Field's road to road enthusiasm began around Chicago in the back of his parents' Chevy Impala station wagon. "I was just a little guy in the back seat of a car," Field said. "I started wondering about the interstate highway system. How is it set up? What is a freeway? What is not a freeway? I didn't know." Field now knows his way along the roads of 43 states. What can you say? "We call ourselves road enthusiasts, not car enthusiasts," Andy said. "We love the roads. We're interested in traffic flow, road designs, the different roads. It's cool to travel."

    And Field has a lot to say about local roads and issues, more than we can get to in today's lesson. But a sampler:

    "I won't sit here and advocate building new freeways and freeways and roads. Everybody needs to look at what we've done so far and what we need. Do you build more roads or do you build more transit? Mixed-use is the answer. ... Driving around Carlsbad has changed a lot in the last five years. It seems like there is always a lot of traffic there now. Then, I-5 and (Hwy.) 78 is a real choke point ... And around Poway, Highway 125 is supposed to connect the border to (Hwy.) 67 and be the big truck bypass for trucks coming from Mexico which has implications for all of North County. But Poway has said no, you will not build this in Poway. ... Did you know old (Hwy.) 101 continued on San Onofre Road behind the gate to the Marine base? Cars used to go all through there from San Clemente to Oceanside. It's a bike route now. You can go around the fence that marks Camp Pendleton and bike for 14 miles on it. Great views."

    And for Andy Field and all road enthusiasts, the road goes on forever. 'Til we meet again.

Andy had an opportunity for a second interview, this time over the phone, to discuss roads with Mr. Weisman. The resulting article that appeared after that interview was North County Roads - The dirt on numbered freeway exits on November 7, 2002. This article ran shortly before Caltrans announced its intention to begin a comprehensive freeway exit numbering program in California.

    Yes, freeway exits are a big deal to some people. More specifically, California freeway exits. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Vive la difference perhaps, but freeways in California differ from their fellow roads practically everywhere else in America. No numbered exits. This poses a logistical challenge as in how do you easily tell someone which exit to take. You're on Interstate 4 going from Tampa to Orlando, no problem. Just take Exit 12 or whatever through Plant City. You're on Interstate 15 going from San Diego to Temecula. Problem. Take exit what, again? Where?

    The reason for no numbered exits, said local road expert Andy Field, is ---- what else ---- money. "California is the only state left with freeways without exit numbers," Field said. "It's financial. It would cost anywhere between $20 million to $28 million for all the interstate highways in California to have new signs with exit numbers."

    Laurie Irving, a spokeswoman for the Federal Highway Administration, confirmed Andy's comments. "It's a state-by-state decision," she said. "The states own the highways. They are federally funded but the California Department of Transportation is responsible."

    Tom Nipper, Caltrans spokesman for District 11, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties, said state transportation officials had a plan to number all freeway exits by November 2004 but he was unsure about the funding for the effort.

    In any event, common sense alone says numbered exit signs would be very helpful to anyone who needs to know where to go. Such signs could be especially helpful in times of emergency. "People who have never seen numbered exits before are not going to miss them," said Field, whose Andy's Highway Kick-Off Page at AARoads.Com is a veritable encyclopedia of road-related information about San Diego and the world. "But say there's an accident," Field said. "Or say you're on I-5 and there's a Santa Fe Road exit and Lomas Santa Fe Road exit. Or you say I'm at the Washington Street exit. Which one?"

    An entire subculture of freeway exit-sign enthusiasts appears to exist throughout the land. One guy has a Web site devoted entirely to Upper Midwest freeway exits. Other guys have sites dedicated to exit signs with names such as Virtual Freeway and Viaguide. "These are mainly catalogues," Field said. "People want to take a road and document what's on it. So, they take down all the exit numbers and document the attractions." Then there's Philip J. Erdelsky, our very own San Diego chronicler of freeway exits. The Cal Tech trained engineer's efgh.com/trans Web site has a document called San Diego and Imperial County Freeway Exits that catalogues all the local freeway exits with distances and the text from exit signs. It also includes some nearby parts of Orange and Riverside counties

    Actually, Erdelsky's site in general has a whole lot of information on local transportation matters divided into sections on airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, buses, ferries and trains. And he was kind of nonplused at my interest in freeway exit signs. Much more interested in talking about bicycle paths, Erdelsky said he catalogued exits as a kind of civic gesture because nobody else had and it was useful for people to know. He pooh-poohed the list to a certain extent saying, "I think you'll find Andy Field has much more interesting information than I do."

    But that's OK. Fame is a fickle mistress in the freeway exit game. We can refer to Erdelsky's list and know that northbound from the Mexican border, Leucadia Bouldevard (exit sign missing on 9-7-1998) is at mile 43.8 of Interstate 5, followed by La Costa Avenue at mile 45.3. Or that Mile 61.1 is a rest area (Aliso Creek). So, at least we're not driving blind.

On February 19, 2002, Mr. Weisman ran a third article based on that second interview. This is taken from North County Roads - Is Highway 125 the way to go?:

    Spanning North County to bring you a variety of road information... I love that old Wide World of Sports opening and modify it today in honor of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games. Andy Field got in from the cold this week with lots of good information for North County road readers. As you may recall, Field, and partner Alex Nitzman, have the most diggity of county and overall road Web sites with the home page http://www.aaroads.com/index.html.

    The site was named Yahoo Site of the Day on Jan. 26. It averaged 800 hits a day until that honor then shot up to 2,500 hits a day before leveling off to about 1,000, Field said. Anyway, I'm glad we had a chance to chat because he helped me with road information. Firstly, I was mistaken in some of what I believed was going on along Interstate 15 north of Camino Del Norte. Plans indeed are proceeding on the high occupancy vehicle lanes that will span Lake Hodges Bridge and eventually go all the way to Highway 78. Those lanes are about five years away from completion, said Field, who follows these developments very closely.

    Also, a "subtle" auxiliary lane was created recently out of a bike lane just north of Pomerado Road and south of Via Rancho Parkway on I-15, giving motorists a little leeway as they merge into the fast-moving, when not congested, roadway. A possible assistance to alleviating the I-15 congestion, Field said, might be zipper lanes of the type used in the Midwest and East. These are lanes with easily moved barriers that can be altered depending on time of day to provide the most lanes for the most traffic.

    Field also wondered what drivers think about the long-standing Highway 125-through-Poway controversy. This discussion involves a whole lot of numbers and we're not talking judging Olympic ice skating either. We're taking on the continuing saga of Highway 125, especially as it relates to Highway 15 and Highways 94, 56 and 67 as well as the once-proposed 680 loop through Encinitas. "The original intention was to have Highway 125 hit I-15," Field said. "Then Camino Del Norte was going to connect I-15 to I-5 with an arterial 680 going to Encinitas. One of the reasons Encinitas incorporated was to get rid of 680. Poway didn't want 125 at all. Highway 56 was supposed to go east of I-15 and be expanded north through Ramona." Obviously this is a sticky quality-of-life issue and we ---- Andy and I ---- would like some feedback from road people on the subject.

    The deal is this. Traffic congestion seriously hurts the region and our lifestyles. But Poway leaders and residents bitterly oppose the Highway 125 extension. What do you think? Should Highway 125 provide a legitimate third north-south route and a regional traffic solution regardless of what people in Poway want? Or is this what we used to call a 'straw man' in graduate school, a non-starter, that wouldn't alleviate traffic anyway and is unfair to people who live around Poway? We're all curious.

    Other road ramblings... Road shields. Now that California freeway exits are being numbered Field hopes for road shields at important exits. For example, Centre City Parkway in Escondido actually is Business Loop 15 but the casual freeway traveler, or tourist, has no clue. The exit sign doesn't reveal the loop status. How about adding the business loops and county roads to freeway exit signs, Caltrans? ... How about expanding Highway 67 from two lanes to its originally proposed superhighway status as an alternative to Highway 125 headed north? Currently, the road is a traffic nightmare, piling up with commuter traffic on weekdays and posing safety concerns due to too much traffic, hardly any passing lanes and speeding. ... Car pool lanes on Interstate 5: Help or hindrance? Currently the fabled Highway 805-5 merge is gridlock central. However, car pool lanes are slated for completion in the next few years. While this will help alleviate some of the merge traffic jam, it may prove disastrous a few miles up the road at Via de la Valle where the lanes will end and traffic again will congeal.

    And lots more, but column space restrictions must end our discussion with a shout out for Al Michaels: "Do you believe in miracles?" Yeah. A traffic-free commute from, and around, North County, would be a good place to start.

Dan Weisman's On The Road column appears weekly on Tuesdays. He can be contacted at (760) 761-4414 or dweisman@nctimes.com.

Alex was also interviewed for an article that ran on January 25, 2000. He was interviewed by Prashant Gopal, and the article ('Geeks' make hobby of highways: Keeping their eyes on the road) appeared in the Delaware News Journal on January 25, 2000:

    Few teen-agers study for their driver's-license exam because the preparation book is a page-turner. But Rush Wickes memorized the book at age 7 just for fun. He also liked maps. From the back seat of a Toyota Tercel, 6-year-old Wickes guided his parents from their house in Landenberg, Pa., to Dayton, Ohio. And at home, he turned his 300-foot driveway into a highway complete with chalk medians, passing lanes and interchanges that he maneuvered through on his bicycle until the lines vanished in the rain. Wickes, now 22, has connected with an international community of people who for about three years have been broadcasting their opinions about roads, bridges and signs on the Internet. They even have developed a name for themselves: "road geeks."

    "I compare it to people who like trains a lot and look at old locomotives," said Wickes, who plans to get his master's degree in urban planning. "There isn't that kind of romance yet with roads." But that is changing. While the number of road geeks in the nation is unknown, Internet search engines list dozens of Web sites, offering detailed lists of highway exits, photographs of signs, and essays on the history of traffic signals and their configurations. Debates on the Internet rage about interchange designs, U.S. highway shields and whether U.S. 301 actually ends in New Castle or Glasgow.

    Alex Nitzman, 25, a college student who lives in Newark, said the consensus among road geeks is that the highway ends in Glasgow, despite signs that confuse the issue. He took a photograph of the intersection recently for his album of stacked bridges, highway signs and roads. The Web page he runs on Delaware highways, http://www.aaroads.com/delaware/, features lists of highway exits, pictures of Delaware license plates dating back to the 1940s and grainy video images taken from Nitzman's car window by friends and former girlfriends. Nitzman may, one day, string the videos together into a silent movie for road fans. "People do Web pages as a guide and information source," Nitzman said. "I do it because it's a passion."

    Wickes and Nitzman have been communicating by telephone and e-mail for three years about their shared interests in Delaware roads. But their hobby takes them in different directions. Nitzman collects old maps and photo albums of stacked bridges and the ends of U.S. highways. His goal is to photograph at least one shield-shaped route sign from every interstate in the country. Wickes follows the politics of road construction and is an expert in traffic-signal configurations. He said his concern about road safety prompts him to call Delaware officials several times a week to report broken traffic lights and dangerous curves.

    Wickes and Nitzman said family members don't always understand their hobby but appreciate it, particularly when they need directions. Nitzman's mother, Jeanne Krauss, said her son's hobby makes Christmas shopping easy. "You just buy him an old map or some license plates and he's happy," Jeanne Krauss said. Wickes' mother, Nancy, said her son's hobby makes him uniquely suited for a job in urban planning and road design. "I think road geek is a fun term," she said. "I like it."

    "But you wouldn't put it on a resume," her son said.

Page Updated March 8, 2004.