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The Man on the Street

B. Deer

There are currently 4.12 million miles of road in the US, and all those roads need to be maintained. Who keeps our roads safe?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

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ight up the Night… With Streetlights

Dark nighttime streets and alleyways have been problematic since just about forever. They’re oh, so scary and a great place for bad guys to hang out. History reports that the ancient Romans used oil lamps full of vegetable oil to light their homes at night. They even had slaves whose sole duty was to manage the lamps. That surely kept the robbers at bay! 1807 found the city of London installing gas street lights, followed by Baltimore in 1816, and Paris in 1820. Thanks to Pavel Yablochkov and his nifty invention of the first semi-electric streetlight, famously referred to as the “Yablochkov Candle,” gas lights phased out and in came these special lamps using electric currents.

Nowadays, streetlights are lit with long-lasting energy-efficient lightbulbs that last for many months or even years. Yet, they still need to be maintained — bulbs changed, repaired when they get smashed, and installed on new streets. So, who should you call when you see a bulb is out? Not such a simple question, because it depends on who owns or who manages the streetlight. Could be the municipality of your county or city, or it could be the local electric company. Either way, they’ll come with a cherry-picker and a worker will be sent up fully geared to manually change the bulb.

Did you know? There are about 26.5 million streetlights in the US.


Go on Green

“Stop says the red light,

Go says the green;

Be careful says the yellow light

Flashing in between...”

Traffic lights are a huge part of what keeps us safe, both as drivers and passengers in vehicles, and as pedestrians crossing the street. Who decides when and where traffic lights are installed?


Traffic engineers study traffic patterns, volumes, and speeds of traffic in specific areas. If there is a problem with congestion or too many accidents, the engineers will meet to determine if that particular intersection warrants the expense and change of traffic flow for a traffic light. A new traffic light costs between $250,000 and $500,000 to purchase and install. The electric bills and routine maintenance total about $8,000 a year.

Did you know? In 1928, Charles Adler invented traffic lights activated by drivers honking... but they were quickly abandoned when residents complained about the excessive noise.

Street Surveyors

When it comes to land ownership, someone must draw the line! You can’t just put up a fence and say, “Everyone off, this is my property!” Also, when it comes to developing land for new houses, buildings, malls, airports, and just about anything, someone must declare the safety and viability of the project. Thus we have land and property surveyors who use a plethora of special tools and skills to determine the exact size, boundaries, elevations, and curves of the land. They collect information on land characteristics, specially looking out for problems with the topography (height and shape of land), soil density, and other land-specific issues such as likelihood of flooding and suitability of the land for proposed project.

Their work is split between fieldwork and office work.

A typical day in the field may find a group of surveyors outdoors in any sort of terrain — regular streets, highways, deserts, mountains, swamps, beaches, remote forests — in full uniform from the yellow or orange vest down to the boots. Job includes measuring distances, directions, and angles between points on, above, and below the earth’s surface. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 676)

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