I Saw The Sign

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Charles pointed out a new sign here in Great Falls. I drove by it today for the first time, and will admit that it is indeed a lovely sign welcoming folks to Great Falls. What I don’t understand is…how on earth does something like this wind up costing $100,000? The federal government, via something called “Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant,” paid for $86,500, and the City paid the other $13,500. As I said, it’s a lovely sign – but seriously, couldn’t this have been done for much less money?

Perhaps via a local community-service organization, or volunteer group, or something like that…with donations-in-kind from local merchants, maybe. It just seems like a lot of money for a sign. And as for the Community Transportation Enhancement Program that funded the lion’s share of this project: the mission of the CTEP is, “…to expand travel choice, strengthen the local economy, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment.” Hmmm…sure, the sign is nice and welcomes people to Great Falls, but I have a hunch that the $100K would be much more appreciated by the citizens of Great Falls if it had gone towards, for example, a protected-left turn from 10th Avenue (eastbound) onto 20th Street. That would have improved the quality of life more than the sign, wouldn’t it?



  1. I’m with Gee here…Why didn’t we put the pretty jail on that route & the cool new sign on the interstate? Why isn’t there a nice sign on the highway200 side? I was greeted by the standard ugly green “entering great falls” sign all the last year. ugh.
    If we are spending $100,000 on signs what are they spending on the really importanat things?

  2. Welllllll, I know a little something about CTEP programs and such, since The Missus works for a highway construction company and I used to be involved in an organization centering around beautification of city entrances and roadways.

    First off, like most government funding, CTEP is CTEP and other programs are other programs and never the twain shall meet. In other words, no matter how much we’d rather the jail be on the north side or how much we’d rather an intersection be improved, the $100,000 spent on this project was never going to be spent on those things, so we’re talking apples and oranges. What CTEP really is is a sub-program of those massive highway funding programs that occasionally get through Congress, and if memory serves, it grew out of an attempt to make up for all the gravel-and-cement outrages of the 60s and 70s. I’m not defending it so much as pointing out what it is: a mixture of pork and PR.

    As for the cost, that’s not surprising at all. In my assocation with that beautification group, we entered into a joint project with the River’s Edge Trail. We bought and planted some trees and flowers along a one-eighth-mile stretch of the trail, and it cost $1,500! And that was with discounts! Looking at the sign, I see landscaping, design, electricity (someone had to run a wire for the lights, and that means running conduit under the street and setting up a service), and masonry. Add in those nice governmental mandates for all the contractors involved in a highway project –Davis-Bacon wages (about $19.00 an hour!), OSHA oversight, a mountain of paperwork, and extremely strict environmental regulations– and you’ll get to $100,000 pretty quickly.

    And suicyde, I imagine there’ll be a new and improved entrance sign on the east side within a couple of years.

  3. I was wrong… there is a nice sign if you continue on from highway 200 to 10th ave south. (I turn at 57th over to 2nd & head home so I missed it.)

  4. $100,000 here, and $100,000 there – and pretty soon they have frittered away $535,000 (that they admit to)on a failed event…

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