Oddly Enough

Whoops! Typos on highway signs vex drivers from New York to Ohio

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When a typo appears on a road sign, fixing the error is not as easy as hitting “backspace” or opening a giant container of Wite-Out. In some cases, it can take more than 50 years.

FILE PHOTO: Cars approach the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn, as seen from Staten Island, in New York City, U.S., October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Generations of literate drivers in New York City, for example, have done a double take when passing a sign reading “Verrazano” - with a missing “z” - directing traffic to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, connecting the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.

In New Jersey, beach-goers may have noticed “Lavalette” with a dropped “l” on the Route 37 exit for Lavallette. And in Ohio, it’s “Cinicinnati” in an alphabet scramble pointing drivers toward the state’s third-largest city.

In New York, it has taken five decades to get around to correcting the bridge road signs, which surely have vexed generations of schoolchildren and their tax-paying parents.

This week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to fix the 54-year-old howler on traffic signs to the bridge named for Giovanni da Verrazzano, the 16th-century Italian explorer who sailed into New York Harbor.

The legislation authorizes fixing that typo and nearly 100 others scattered around the state during regularly scheduled maintenance, New York officials said.

“The MTA expects most, if not all, of the 96 signs identified to be replaced under a normal schedule of maintenance,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Jon Weinstein.

The botched name was due to a typographical error, or typo, in an original construction contract, said Gerard Kassar, chief of staff for state Senator Martin Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn who backed the Verrazzano bill.

The contractor who made the error on the recently installed “Cinicinnati” sign, reported in July on an Interstate 71 ramp in Columbus, fixed the typo this month, said Matt Bruning, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He had no explanation for the typo.

“Sign misspellings are relatively rare,” Bruning said. “As soon as it’s discovered, it’s usually corrected fairly quickly.”

On the Jersey Shore, officials are wasting little time in erasing the embarrassing error in the spelling of Lavallette on a sign directing drivers to the family-friendly beach town. The original contractor hired by the state will insert a second “l” in a new sign that should be installed sometime in the next two weeks, said Judith Drucker, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Additional reporting by Patricia Reaney in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler