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Highway 34 Slogan Too Obtuse

A friend from Canada is visiting the Madville Times World Headquarters this weekend. (Homeland Security let her through the border after a brief interrogation; I suspect the NSA has flagged my email and phone for extra attention this weekend.) She made the long straight drive down I-29 and found South Dakota clearly more beautiful than North Dakota. (Hooray for the Coteau des Prairies!)

A picture might help!

But when she turned west on Highway 34, she found puzzlement. Colman greeted her with that big "SD Highway 34 four the future!" billboard. What the heck is that? my well-educated friend wondered. Are there four highways coming to Madison? (34, 81, 19, Norwegian Boulevard... close!) Is 34 a road to a future where everyone trusts spellcheck?

Of course, everyone around here knows that Four the Future! is the battle cry of Madison boosters seeking to turn 34 into a mini-Interstate with four lanes. These boosters are doing penance for the sins of their fathers, who in the 1950s turned down an opportunity to bring Interstate 29 to Madison instead of Brookings. The state keeps treating the 34 boosters like Rodney Dangerfield with allegedly lowballed traffic projections.

But the point here is marketing: the only people who understand Four the Future! are the people who already know about the slogan. A non-local observer (never mind my Canadian guest; think South Dakota officials, contractors, other taxpayers and voters!) gets nothing from that slogan. With this slogan, Madison's boosters are talking to themselves instead of the people they need to reach.

If Madison really wants to raise awareness of the 34 four-lanification campaign, it needs a better slogan. How about...

  • ...If this road had four lanes, you could pass that tractor.
  • ...Four lanes good! Two lanes bad! (Nods to Orwell fit Madison well.)
  • ...Must go faster! Four lanes now!

By the way, my Canadian guest cruised Highway 34 during the 5 p.m. hour. I asked her how traffic was. She said the road, like the future, was wide open.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.08.03

    World Headquarters, Wow a writer can move up in the world fast. If you just say it does it become true. I did hear once that the pen is mightier than the sword.

  2. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.03

    Sinatra did not sing "one more fore the road."

    Who got paid for that slogan?

    A "Call Phone Number" and tell them you want this 2 lane to become 3-lanes" might be better, but certainly not worth a big bonus for originality.

  3. interested party 2013.08.03

    White's Drive-Inn is the only reason to force this traveler to brave the Hypos that plague that highway.

  4. interested party 2013.08.03

    The only tar or slab necessary is to cross the caged river somewhere between Mobridge and Pickstown: it's always a craps shoot.

  5. interested party 2013.08.03

    The best parts are when it's in your rear-view mirror: east of Flandreau or west of Belle.

  6. interested party 2013.08.03

    There used to a kind of buzz around Bridger on the Cheyenne when you could see Harney Peak or near Enning when you could see Bear Butte. Now it's fight or flight.

  7. interested party 2013.08.03

    give me your poor, your besotted, your huddled video loottery masses yearning to breathe free.

  8. interested party 2013.08.03

    welcome to marty's world, south dakota.

  9. hmr59 2013.08.04

    Passed along 34 last weekend to Lake Madison (walked on the bike trail, so got an extreme up-close and personal with that highway). Noticed those signs and shared the confusion - thanks for clearing up the mystery!

  10. Jim 2013.08.05

    I travel that route every day during the week. I can assure you it is seldom wide open. Really no more or less traffic than what I have seen on the 4 lane between Volga and Brookings. There are troopers, at times, but then again that is their job. If you are legal, don't fear them.

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