Our View: Roads don't need cash sponsors

Saturday , February 09, 2013 - 9:57 AM

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Editorial Board

One of the less attractive ideas that is circulating across the nation is the idea of naming roads, for a price, after a business. Virginia has already passed a bill to set up a naming rights plan for roads. The state of Washington is debating a bill that would allow private companies — again for a price — to stick their names on bridges and state highways.

This is the ultimate in kitsch. It’s tacky, cheap and money-grubbing; the equivalent of the worst of reality show television arriving on our streets. Come up with a barrel of cash, and Main Street can be changed to “Chicken Delight Drive,” or “Peptol Bismol Avenue.” To be fair, those are hypothetical names, neither of the companies plan to decorate streets with their corporate names. But the whole idea is enough for any driver to reach for the carsick bag.

No matter how desperate states or cities get for money, it is not a good idea to sell highways and streets to the highest corporate bidder. We don’t approve of the practice of naming highways after local pols who devoted a couple of decades to public service. That’s commendable, but one should achieve a certain amount of recognition to have a street or highway attached to his or her name. A U.S. president fits that criteria.

Frankly, it’s bad enough that sports have been polluted by corporate donations. It used to be that the college bowl games actually had real names devoid of corporate sponsors. Now witness the lunacy that hits ESPN every December: the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl; the Belk Bowl; the MAACO Bowl; the Meineke Car Care Bowl; the GoDaddy.com Bowl ... and so on. Those are private enterprises, so we live with the cheapness.

But our taxes pay for our streets, our highways, our bridges, etc. They shouldn’t be sold to the highest cash bidder.

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