Monday, June 15, 2009

Cruisin' the Sam?

Yesterday afternoon, I rode on the Sam Rayburn Tollway for the first time...sort of.

It's not that I hadn't been on the road before; far from it. I've driven it many, many times under its original name of State Highway 121, but this was the first time to be there since some of the new signs had been put up. The name-selection process for the tollway was discussed here in this post from February; I was all for keeping the generic "121 Tollway" name because everyone would call it that anyway, but I noted that the Rayburn name might be cool if we could get traffic reporters and the like to refer to it as "the Sam."

But is anyone really using that name? While I saw a fair amount of Rayburn signs pointing toward the highway (using the same design of the new signs that have popped up along the George Bush recently), all the big green freeway signs leading to 121 still have the old "121 TOLL" signs on them (perhaps that's the next phase of the changeover?). And I have yet to hear the name Sam Rayburn come out of the mouth of a single traffic reporter (maybe Eric can enlighten us on whether there's any concerted effort to use the new name); so far, it's been all-121, all the time.

So we'll see if this name will stick. It's confusing enough that, while most Metroplex freeways have both a number and a name, the numbers are the only things that usually appear on the large green freeway signage. (How confusing it must be when someone from out of town is told to go north on Stemmons and east on LBJ, when all the signs say 35E and 635, respectively.) The only exception seems to be the local highway, which usually gets called the George Bush or the Bush Turnpike, though some will call it by its pre-toll name, Highway 190, or its erroneous counterpart, I-90, which is very far off. (I mean that literally; I-90 is Interstate 90, which runs from Washington state to Massachusetts. And here's a piece of trivia: The original house where I lived as a newborn in Cleveland just escaped becoming part of I-90 by two or three houses.) And to make things more complicated, the service roads for the Bush are still technically Highway 190, while the mainlanes are the Bush. And I assume that the same will take place on 121, where the mainlanes will be the Sam Rayburn Tollway and the service roads will remain 121.

So what do you think--will the new name catch on at all? (I still think that "the Sam" has potential.) Or will it be 121 forever, new signage notwithstanding?

Something constructive: The coolest part of my drive on "the Sam" actually took place on the part that's not tolled; the new section from Business 121 to FM 2499 is now a freeway! I shudder to think of all the time I spent sitting in traffic at the two stoplights that interrupted 121's freeway-ness; the one at Sandy Lake had tons of traffic coming in and out of Grapevine Mills, and the one at Freeport Parkway was often pointless, because we would have to stop even if no cross-traffic was there at all. The two new bridges have now alleviated that problem, and it was great to sail over those two intersections without interruption. (And how smart it was of somebody to decide to go ahead and build half of the freeway--two lanes in each direction--now, to end that bottleneck, rather than wait until they could afford to pay for the whole thing. Well done, folks!)

This is pretty "tweet" of them: I only joined Twitter a few days ago, but one thing has already impressed me a great deal: They've postponed a scheduled maintenance outage time that was supposed to take place within a few hours so that Iranians protesting the (likely tainted) presidential election that took place in their country can continue to use the service as a vital communication tool--a near-necessity in a country that's known to censor some pretty big swaths of the Internet. They've rescheduled the outage for tomorrow afternoon, which is in the middle of the night in Tehran.


Eric Grubbs said...

I have called 121 "the Sam Rayburn" a couple of times, but I've never called I-30 "the Tom Landry" or I-20 as "Ronald Reagan Highway" and those names have been in place for years.

My rule of thumb about highways is to say the numerical name first and foremost. That's what people see on most road signs. You don't see 635 referred to as "LBJ" on any signs, but LBJ is very commonly connected with 635. But that's a rare one, hence why I say "635 LBJ."

That said, I rarely say "Stemmons" or "R L Thornton." I prefer to be more specific in terms of location: "If you're going to downtown Dallas, watch out for that road work on southbound 35E at Woodall Rodgers in the left lane" or "Still have a major accident in Oak Cliff on 35E northbound before the Zang Curve in the two right lanes."

But who knows, I know people who still refer to I-30 as "the old turnpike."

Kev said...

Yeah, that seems to be common traffic-reporter-speak to do numbers followed by names (35-Stemmons, 75-Central, and so on).

It is funny how some highways are only referred to by one or the other. I had totally forgotten that I-20 was the Ronald Reagan Highway until you mentioned it, and I've never heard any of your colleagues say "190-Bush Turnpike" in combination. And then there's Woodall Rodgers, which nobody, and I mean nobody, ever calls, umm....Spur 366, which I just had to look up, LOL. It's funny that it doesn't appear on a single big green sign, nor does the Rodgers name; it's all about which freeway you're connecting to on the other side.

And R.L. Thornton was obviously named before the Interstate system was fully in place, since it applies to I-30 going east and 35E going south. I can see why you might avoid that one.

Finally, we can't forget poor 35W between Ft. Worth and Denton, which seems to have no name at all besides its number. Since it passes by TMS, they could call it the Speedway Freeway, but some drivers might get the wrong idea. ;-)