Traffic Condition/Alert Signs

We were headed down the 405 south toward Carson today and passed one of the many traffic alert signs on the freeways. They seem to be used mainly for Amber Alerts, though lately they have been used to indicate the amount of time it will take you to go a certain distance. This is a good thing.

When giving you estimated travel times the signs generally say something like:
“Est. travel times to:
RTE 710 7 Min.
RTE 605 15 Min.”
(Sorry I don’t have a photo of the actual wording.)

Here’s my burning question: How often have you ever referred to the 710 (or any freeway here) as “Route” 710? I’ve only lived here for 22 years but I’ve never said “route”. It is always THE 10 or THE 405 or The Santa Monica Freeway. Is the person programming the sign from somewhere else? Have they outsourced it? If it is a matter of saving letters, RTE is the same as THE or FWY.

I’m stumped. What do you say?

Photo from

18 thoughts on “Traffic Condition/Alert Signs”

  1. My hunch is that it is an out of towner doing the updates. Referring to our freeways as “THE” drives my cousin in Mpls absolutely mad.

    I love a good conspiracy theory…let’s fuel this one.

  2. When I was in Santa Barbara (the ultimate proving ground for North vs South idiosyncrasies and traditions) I found that Northern California people also freak out when you refer to a freeway using “the”. Down here it’s “THE 5”, up there it’s just “5”

  3. I’ll email caltrans. They have always responded to my strange inquiries.

    -Ben (always the conspiracy theory spoiler :P

  4. Well, in the arcane world of highway administration, there’s actually a difference between a state route and an interstate.

    California Route 110 and Interstate 110 are different freeways, though one ends seamlessly where the other begins.

    I call the whole damn thing “the 110” because I personally don’t understand the administrative specifics of state routes and interstates, but I imagine the guy who makes the freeway signs does.

  5. along those lines, it drives me (a socal native) crazy when people mistakenly refer to “THE PCH.” an honest out-of-towner mistake, I’ll admit, given our practice of adding the THE to our freeway names, but it still annoys. dudes, it’s just “PCH.” my guess for the reference to “Route” is that that’s what the freeways’ true names are, regardless of what we refer to them as.

  6. I grew up with folks calling freeways I this and route that. (I is for interstate, route is usually a collection of different roads and highways like Route 66).

    There is only one I5, so I’ve never had a problem with folks calling it The 5. I adapted quite well. I also call it “The Television” because I heard people call it “The Radio”. Really, we should put The in front of everything. The Ventura Blvd. The PCH.

    As for the outsourcing of our freeway update signs … yes, there is a group of workers assigned to that in Uttar Pradesh. They monitor the SigAlert system and then write up appropriate text versions of the alerts and it feeds to the correct sign.

    It’s mandatory that they watch LA Story before they’re allowed to post without a supervisor’s approval.

  7. My theory is that these traffic alert signs cause more traffic because people will invariably slow down to read them. Thanks a lot sign.

  8. Caltrans is a statewide agency, based in Sacramento. “Route” refers to State Route highways, which were funded by state funds (as indicated by their number in an upside-down shovel blade icon (a reference to the Gold Rush-era prospectors), though the Militant always thought it was a gold nugget. Caltrans uses Caltrans speak, not the local parlance.

    Also, government, etc. people speak a totally different vocabulary than you or the Militant. Once some crime suspect was hanging out by a streetlight and the policeman told him, “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE LIGHT STANDARD!” Uhh… most civilians don’t even know what a “light standard” is.

  9. Ya, but neither the 605 nor the 710 are “routes”. The freeways that are “route” would be the 91, the 57, the 101, the 170, the 134, the 110 from downtown to Pasadena (doesn’t meet interstate standards), all the OC tollways, and probably a few others that escape me at the moment.

  10. I noticed this over the weekend and my reaction was: “Huh. They’ve stopped calling them “Amber Alerts?!?”

    I thought it a smart move, since Child Abduction is a helluva lot closer to the truth than Amber Alert, especially in an area with daily Red Flags.

    Is it just me? I’m almost positive that it was always “Amber Alert: child abduction” in prior kidnapping seasons.

    Also, on the LA Story thread — Weekend Edition (I think) had a great story about Bill the talking Billboard in Vegas. TOTALLY reminded me of LA Story.

  11. Andy S: Also –
    1. “Duh, what’s an Amber Alert?”

    2. Women named Amber kept going, “If that was my car, do I get some sort of prize or something?”

    3. Freaking Homeland Security.

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks “route” is out of place.

    Ben, thanks for that caltrans link, very cool!

    Militant, you always crack me up.

    Cybele, you are THE best.

    I love the “The PCH” story. Makes me think of people saying “The Batman”

  13. The 110 is never an interstate. Interstates have to meet federal imposed standards and get federal dollars as a benefit for doing so (see long running battle over the 99 through the Central Valley – it’s not an interstate, but it needs the money. But it doesn’t want to lose the “99” – but there’s already a “99” in another part of the country. Plus, some overpasses would need to be redone to meet federal height requirements, etc. It all gets back to interstate commerce, basically).

    It’s not an out-of-towner thing. It’s a standardized method of proper name usage that probably required by CalTrans regs. If it says “I5” or “Rte 110,” you’d know to say “the 5” or “the 110.”

    CalTrans, by the way, is simply the shorthand name for the state agency named the California Department of Transportation. So CalTrans = California Department of Transportation the same as Rte 110 = the 110, in Southern Cali, or Rte 99 = 99 in NorCal.

  14. CD takes all the fun out of starting up a conspiracy theory. Damn her and the need for accuracy. It is so much more fun to start an urban myth and watch the iterations grow and note the first appearance on snopes. damn. At least pay attention to Cybelle and put a fun spin on it.

  15. Um, the 110 *is* an interstate south of the 101.
    You forgot to mention the Interstate Highway system was originally designed to transport heavy military vehicles in case the Soviets invaded. Hence Hawaii having three interstate highways despite being a sea-locked state.

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