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Apparently, it’s hard to spell H-I-L-L-S-D-A-L-E

By rgordon
Monday, April 16th, 2007 at 7:59 pm in Uncategorized.

Poor Hillsdale Boulevard.

Suffering through the traffic snarl on northbound on Highway 101 for your morning or evening commute is mostly an exercise in autopiloting. But if you’ve managed to divert yourself from that “zone” lately while heading towards San Mateo, perhaps you’ve noticed something wrong with this picture:

Your eyes are not deceiving you. Indeed, that is Hillsdale Boulevard, misspelled as “Hillsidale.”

Oops. Or should we say oopsi?

Sadly, the saga of Hillsdale Boulevard’s identity crisis did not begin here. Exhibit B, this photo of another exit sign for Hillsdale Boulevard, taken in September 2005:

Yes, that is also Hillsdale Boulevard, this time misspelled as “Hilldale.”

Sigh. Or hould we ay igh?

As for the latest “Hillsidale” blunder, Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said it was a mistake made by a contractor the agency is employing to replace 390 road and highway signs in San Mateo County. Wonder said she did not know the name of the contractor but that the sign probably went up, mistake and all, sometime in February.

“We went back and checked our plans,” Wonder said, noting that that Hillsdale was spelled correctly in them. “So this is just an error in printing.”

Wonder speculated that the error got missed because “i” is a skinny, harder-to-see letter. She had no idea where in the process the mistake occurred and said the first time she heard of it was from a media inquiry placed Friday.

“Everybody knows that it’s Hillsdale and they take it, so it probably just skipped everybody’s visual cortex,” Wonder said. “But we will fix it.”

Wonder said Caltrans will have the contractor fix the sign at their expense within a couple of weeks. Replacing an entire sign of that size, she said, would cost about $5,000, so a less-expensive overlay will be placed on top of the misspelled name instead. Because a lane closure will be required, the sign will be fixed overnight.

The 2005 “Hilldale” blunder was not, however, caused by Caltrans contractors. That sign was part of the Ralston Avenue interchange project, which was funded by Redwood City and Belmont. Redwood City managed the project’s construction, and the project contract was awarded to Berkeley-based O.C. Jones & Sons.

Perhaps the subcontractor who did that sign job had watched one too many reruns of Back to the Future. Marty McFly, as you may recall from the 1985 classic, lived in Hilldale.

Wonder, however, had a different explanation for Caltrans’ blunder.

“We’re checking to see if you’re paying attention,” Wonder said. “You passed the test.”

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