Wayfinding is the new term for signs to help people find their way around Jefferson City, but it also is instructive for learning how government prioritizes spending tax dollars.
A story in Saturday's edition reported the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has awarded a $214,000 grant to implement a wayfinding plan, "including fabrication and installation of wayfinding signage for downtown Jefferson City and from the Katy Trail leading into Jefferson City."
The grant money comes from the Transportation Alternative Program, which - according to MoDOT's web site - "provides federal funds through a competitive selection process for transportation-related activities and cannot be used for routine highway and bridge construction."
The federal government's priority obviously does not align with Missouri's priority.
MoDOT laments a lack of funding for the state's routine highway and bridge construction and improvements. After voters rejected a proposed three-quarter cent sales tax in August, tolls to finance I-70 improvements are now being studied.
In the interim, the cash-strapped agency has moved into maintenance mode, but Jefferson City - and other grant recipients - will receive federal dollars for alternatives to smooth roadways and safe bridges.
Furthermore, within Jefferson City's alternative money, as much as $25,000 is designated for consultants to narrow definitions of wayfinding destinations.
David Bange, Jefferson City's city engineer, said: "What are the destinations in Jefferson City and what are regions that have identity that we should try to direct people to, that's something that's still a little bit in flux."
Maybe, but do we need to spend $25,000 to eliminate flux by pinpointing local destinations?
The $214,000 in federal funds represents 80 percent of the total cost. The remaining 20 percent, the local match, already has been provided by a number of groups, including Capital Region Medical Center, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Discover Jefferson City Foundation, Downtown Jefferson City, the East Side Business Association, the Historic City of Jefferson and city's parking division.
Don't get us wrong. We're not criticizing the wayfinding initiative as an amenity for Jefferson City.
But if we draw back the lens to look at Missouri's overall transportation picture, it's difficult not to question federal funding for more signs when we need better roads