Key West CitizenJuly 26, 2017

We’ve all seen the commercials, Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) shilling for a reverse mortgage company. Is there anything worse than seeing our Hollywood heroes fade and fall to the point they can only get D grade movies, or are forced to sell snake oil on late-night cable television?

Tragically, here in the Florida Keys we have our own star which has faded tremendously from her past beauty and is now being exploited to a point of ridiculousness.

Like a fake set of oversized pearls, the latest indiscretion hoisted upon our beautiful Overseas Highway are the new 511 advertisements disguised as information signs. These oversized bright blue signs read “Travel Info Call 511.” In case the signs weren’t obtrusive enough, directly below the huge signs is another sign proclaiming by whom the sign above is sponsored by! So now we need signs to be sponsored?

For a bit of background, the Overseas Highway, U.S. 1, was completed in 1938 and built on the former railroad infrastructure of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad. Consisting of over 100 miles of highway and 42 bridges, it has been universally accepted as one of the most beautiful roads in America.

In 2001 this wonderful stretch of road was deemed a Florida Scenic Highway and, more recently, was awarded the prestigious honor of being named an “All-American” Road by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

One would think that having achieved such a distinction, every effort would be made to continually refine and beautify this glorious stretch of highway. Tragically the opposite seems to be the case, at least when it comes to signs.

If we didn’t know better, we would suspect the head of the department in charge of placing signs on U.S. 1 was related to the sign company installing them and gets a bonus for volume.

The number of signs and various markers along our wonderful road has reached a point of ridiculousness. Even more mystifying is the illogical way the signs are placed.

There are literally thousands of those ugly white posts along the roadway. We assume they are in place to dissuade people from parking on grassy areas. This may make sense when the grass is newly planted but once established, can we please lose these obtrusive eyesores? Many areas they delineate have zero parking value to begin with, so why were they there to begin with?

With other signs, it is the sheer volume and redundancy that is striking. Exactly how many times do we need to be told that motor vehicles are not allowed on the bike path? Do we really need five large warning signs across from intersecting roads that are abandoned? We can go on and on and on.

It is time for our elected officials, locally and in Tallahassee, to start paying attention to the bureaucratic sign apocalypse that has infested the road which is the life line of our community.

We challenge our county officials to make a point of noticing the incredible myriad of signs the next time they drive up or down the Keys. Once noted, please ask yourselves how much more attractive the highway would be if far fewer of the visual abominations existed.

Let’s all work to help U.S. 1 regain her dignity and let her beauty shine.

Have a favorite sign peeve? Let us hear about it in the Citizens Voice.

— The Citizen