Dear Wise One: As a frequent driver between Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas, I was pleasantly surprised to see new 75 mph speed-limit signs on Interstate 40. But euphoria and speed decreased all too soon when that posted limit reverted back to 70 mph. Help my confusion -- 75 vs. 70? Where? Why? -- Need To Speed
Dear Speedy: The conversion to 75 mph on stretches of rural interstate highways appears to be a work in progress. Seriously, do you know how many of those 70 mph signs are out there?
We have information from Joe Sartini, state maintenance engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. It's been some years since he has appeared in this space, and we're delighted he's back.
Sartini reports that his crews started in Crawford County and are working their way east. Crawford County, for the forgetful, borders Oklahoma. Its county seat is Van Buren. Everyone got that?
The process involves more than the swapping of signs. In fact, the new signs display dual speed limits -- 75 mph, but 70 mph for trucks. A larger sign mount assembly is thus required. Crews in some places also are installing warning speed placards for curves, and installing chevrons, or directional arrows, in curves.
By increasing the speed limit, Sartini said, Transportation Department investigators had to "ball bank" the curves at 75 mph to determine where additional signs were needed. A ball bank reading indicates the combined effect of superelevation, lateral acceleration and vehicle body roll.
We were curious, and we so read a document from the Federal Highway Administration, "Procedures for Setting Advisory Speeds on Curves." Dense, it was. The important information was that curves tend to be associated with a disproportionate number of severe crashes.
Translation: Dude, you're going too fast around that curve! Slow down to the speed on the yellow warning sign!
We once asked the Arkansas State Police if a speeding ticket could be issued if a driver ignored a warning sign and crashed. No, because the warning sign is just that, and not a speed-limit sign. But a trooper might use his discretion to write a ticket for careless and prohibited driving.
Back to Joe Sartini.
His crews are in District 8, on the interstate in Johnson and Pope counties, and working toward Little Rock. He respectfully declined to give a best guess as to when the whole of Interstate 40 would have the new signs.
Dear Jahmetree: I took that class in the 1950s. One useful thing I learned was: "Parallel lines never meet, unless you happen to bend one of 'em." -- Doc Allan
Dear Doc: You reference a column in which we confessed to being a less than brilliant geometrician. On the other hand, we once knew a federal judge who told us he studied Euclidean geometry from a textbook derived from the writings of Euclid himself.
This caused us to fall into a Pythagorean swoon.
Vanity plate on a Mazda convertible: TOY4JOY