Phil's Rambling Rants
Construction Zones (a modest proposal)|
The point is not to rent them from a company that makes money by renting them, the point is to charge for having them actually in use sitting on the road. Bob's Barricades wouldn't charge less for orange barrels that you put back in the truck than for ones still blocking a lane of the highway, as long as Bob can't give them out to the next guy, they're still "in use" from a business point of view.
When there is a work zone sign, it is true that there almost always is some work somewhere around, but it is very likely that the actual work is miles away, or next week, or last week. For instance, in my observation it is standard practice, if the project is do do some kind of maintenance on say 10 miles of the interstate, to first put up barrels and signs and block off one lane on both halves of the highway through the whole 10 miles. Then the crew works its way through the job, actually working on a 1-mile stretch of one side of the road until they finish the whole job, and then they clean up all of the barrels and signs. They do it this way because it's slightly easier for them to do that than to keep shifting the signs and barrels around, and there is absolutely no incentive for them to minimize the disruption to the traffic.
The case you point out where they're working at 3 AM because if they did the work during the day there would be a huge riot is another example. Note that (a) this only happens in big cities where traffic would literally back up for hours if they didn't; they don't bother in less populated areas where doing the work during the day only backs up traffic for 15 minutes (but I happen to think that a fifteen minute backup, or even a one minute backup, that I have to drive through every day is worth being annoyed about); and (b) when they have a site like you describe where they're only working in the middle of the night, in most cases there is still a reduced speed limit during the day (and a billion signs saying that you should slow down to protect the workers), even though there are no workers to protect. They open up the lanes, so the traffic can get through, but they leave the signs, which gets people used to the idea that the signs don't mean anything.