Long before SimCity or "The Sims" ever came around, I lived with my family on ten acres in northern Oswego County, New York. It was on that 10 acres and adjacent property that I built my own "county" with what I felt was a well-planned network of roads and streets. Aside from the paths I built through the woods, the map to my little civilization resided in my imagination. I would spend the winter planning out my routes that would wind through the trees in the back forty. I would scout out potential bridge locations, utilizing fallen trees or pallets and rerod dragged from the barn. My roads and signs would be based on designs that we had encountered on our trips throughout the state and occasionally in surrounding states. I would then spend the following summer building and marking paths with hand drawn road signs. At the edge of our property was one of my signs, welcoming you to the adjacent "county", named after the neighbors that owned it. An imagined tunnel laid to the west of our property, again on the neighbor's land, since it was impossible for me to build any sort of tunnel. My signs pointed the way to that as well.
The tunnel was named after a prominent boulevard in Montreal, simply because I found the spelling of his first name and the sound of his last name intriguing.
As a child I was fascinated by roads and maps. When I was six my mother and grandmother drove to Binghamton for a family wedding. I remember being so excited because they had traveled down Interstate 81 all the way to Exit 2, when we lived near Exit 36. I wondered if I-81 at Exit 2 looked anything like I-81 further upstate. I was fascinated by all the new signs for I-81 that NYSDOT had installed through the village. These new signs were bigger and brighter than the signs they had replaced (which were from the original building of the interstate). When we went to the grand opening of Penn Can Mall, there was a sign for "NY 481 NORTH" that led the way to Fulton. Imagine, a new roadway going all the way to Fulton! Someday I would be lucky enough to see the other end of Route 481. I studied maps and on family rides on Sunday afternoons, my father would try to get me lost, to no avail.
Later in my teens, when asked by my guidance counselor what I wanted to do with my life, my first response was "build roads and make road signs." I knew the career I had in mind was much more complicated than I had just described, but I didn't know any better. The counselor's response was inquisitive and really not that encouraging. "You're really good in music, how would you like to be a music teacher?" I did enjoy music and I had always enjoyed the thought of being a teacher so I said "yes, that's what I'll go to school for." I buried the dream of building safe roads and guiding motorists over them safely.
Fast forward a decade or so. The internet is growing at an unbelievable pace. I do a quick search on the Usenet newsgroups and stumble across misc.transport.road, and there in that newsgroup are a bunch of people, discussing the very things I had always been interested in. Within a year, the website you're on right now was born. Nine years later, I'm still maintaining the site, still studying road maps and driving down roads to see where they go, why they go there and how they are marked. But now I observe the habits of other drivers and watch traffic patterns. I try to understand the "why" and "how". And now I'm finally going back to school to become a traffic engineer. I never reached that goal of a music teacher, there were too many roads to explore.
I am interested in all aspects of the highways of The Empire State, from our freeways (expressways) and the Thruway, the longest toll-road in the world, to the lightly traveled town maintained roads in the most rural reaches of the Adirondacks. I am particularly interested in signage, especially the signs on the freeways and expressways. Since I grew up in the Syracuse, N.Y. area, I tend to use NYSDOT Region 3 signage as the standard for which I base all other signs in New York State. As I've studied and learned over the years, Region 3 actually does a very, very good job at what they do and deserve to be the standard after all.
There are many road practices in other states, particularly in Arizona, that I wish would be adopted or brought back to Upstate New York. I guess I'm an easy-chair traffic engineer of sorts, sending messages to NYSDOT and the Thruway Authority with comments, compliments and suggestions. I use my sign shop as an outlet for these interests for now. Many of these suggestions have been implemented.
I attended school for a 1.5 years in pursuit of a Civil Engineering degree. I interviewed with NYSDOT Region 2 for an internship with one of their summer programs. Unfortunately I was not selected for the internship. After much thought and reflection, I decided to return to my telecommunications career. I decided that working for a state agency was not really my cup of tea, as I realised that I would never be able to change the world.