Want to be a `roads' scholar? Forget UH-CL

by James Geluso

The University of Houston-Clear Lake is supposed to be "a graduate and upper-level university." At the upper levels of academia, one would think that a certain appreciation for precision would be acquired. Not so at UH-CL.

Our sister institution ran an ad in this very newspaper earlier in the month. The ad encouraged readers to go check out the place, and provided a map to help people get there, with all the major highways labeled: 45, 59, 10, and 35.

Now, a little digression. There are several major types of highways: interstate highways, U.S. highways and state highways. They all have different standards, different funding methods and different signs.

Interstates are big, limited-access highways and don't always run from state to state. I-45 never leaves Texas, but it's part of the Interstate Highway System, gets a red-and-blue sign and is mostly paid for by the feds.

Then there's the U.S. highway system. It runs all across the country, often from state to state, and has much less rigorous standards than the interstate highways. U.S. 59 is one of them, and runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. But as big as this highway is, and despite what Houstonians may say, it's not an interstate. Got that? It's NOT I-59. The sign is a different shape. It has no exit numbers.

Now, sticking the interstate shield and the number 59 together on a map of Houston is grossly, patently and simply wrong, but I've learned to live with it. Just a quirk of Houstonian Bubba-types, I guess. You would think an upper-level university, though, would not repeat the mistake. But no, there it is: a phantom highway called I-59 running across their map of Houston.

But this is not enough.

All states also have state highway systems. Texas has a huge one, including Texas 35. Texas highways are (everybody, now) NOT INTERSTATES. Texas highways have a simple sign: a plain white rectangle. It's not that difficult, unless you're from UH-CL. Their map has, in place of Texas 35, a highway called (you guessed it) I-35.

What makes it worse is that there is a highway in Texas called Interstate 35. For you UH-CL people, it's arguably the single most important piece of road in Texas, connecting Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio before heading south to the Mexican border at Laredo. It doesn't come anywhere near Houston.

See, it's not really that hard. Interstate highways, U.S. highways, state highways ... simple, right?

Now, you may ask, "Why be so pedantic?" I would counter with another question: "Do you really want to go to a graduate school, an institution of the highest of higher learning, that can't tell the difference between an interstate and a piddling little two-lane highway?"

I didn't think so.

Geluso is a senior history major who is proud to be a road geek.

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