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Odd road sign is part of Boston trivia

You have driven or walked by it for years, that strange road sign by the Boston Public Garden on Arlington Street, the one with the oh-so-Euro road map and those alien designations that start with the letter C. Every time we pass by, we wonder if we're in the Back Bay or Dun Laoghaire.

But after doing some research, and bringing the sign to the attention of the city, we learned something.

First, it is one of the oldest street signs in Boston, dating to a period in the 1960s when the city was trying to do things differently, street signs were made of plywood, and poles were pure steel, city officials said.

According to Jim Gillooly, deputy commissioner for planning and engineering at the Boston Transportation Department, the sign was part of a program to introduce hip road signs around the Public Garden and Back Bay. It is believed this sign is the last of several that once dotted the area. Why they chose a blue background, no one seems to know.

We had thought the C-9 and C-28 on the sign were old city routes, but no. Gillooly was told by the Massachusetts Highway Department that at the time, the state used the C's to denote they are Commonwealth routes, not state routes.

But like many signs in Boston, the designations are wrong. Route 9 doesn't start until Copley Square, which is several blocks away, and Route 28 is there, but it's only Route 28 north.

For now, the sign will stay, though Gillooly said the old route designations will be covered to prevent confusion. The rest of the sign still serves a purpose, he said.

Below the radar
The Davis Square station is just a few sets of stairs below street level, as is the Central Square station on the MBTA's Red Line. Why then is Porter Square -- in between those other two stations -- so far underground that it takes a long, lumbering 143-foot-long escalator (if it's working) to get there?

Thushan of Cambridge was wondering the same thing.

``OK, I've read your recent columns and pored over the blog, and, much to my disappointment, I could not find an explanation to Porter Square station's extreme depths," he wrote.

The reason Porter is the deepest station in the Boston area is simple. When under construction in the early 1980s (Porter opened in 1984), a construction-related decision was made to burrow deep and build the tunnel and station in rock as opposed to soft clay, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

``It would have been much more expensive (and taken significantly longer) to construct the tunnel and station in the soft clay due to the earth support system that would have been necessary if a more shallow alignment had been selected," he wrote in an e-mail.

Pahking permits
It was announced last week that Boston resident parking permits, which are currently valid for three years, will be renewable every two years starting this summer. The Boston Transportation Department is making the change to streamline the process of renewing permits.

The program has expanded rapidly, rising from 41,000 permits issued in 1988 to more than 76,000 permits valid today, officials said.

The new process calls for a revolving schedule of permit renewals based on neighborhood. In July, Charlestown residents will be the first to receive the two-year permits. And as part of the streamlining process, the future renewal month for many neighborhood permits will change.

For example, Charlestown's future renewal month will be September, making that neighborhood's upcoming permits effective July 1, 2006, through Sept. 30, 2008. To make it easier to start the new program, the expiration date of half of the current permits will be extended for one year. Current permit-holders will be notified about this change via mail.

Resident parking permits are issued by the Boston Transportation Department's Office of the Parking Clerk free of charge. Located in Room 224, Boston City Hall, the office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Vehicles must be registered to a Boston address and the resident must present a proof of residency that bears the same name and address as on the vehicle registration.

As proof of residency, the office accepts utility, cable, credit card, and water and sewer bills, as well as monthly bank statements. The vehicle owner cannot have any overdue Boston parking tickets issued to his/her current or past vehicle registrations. The first permit must be obtained in person, but in ensuing years the permit may be renewed by mail.

Pike closures
For the first time since it was announced in January that there would be no more nighttime closures related to Big Dig work, there's a nighttime closure scheduled this week.

Starting Wednesday, the Massachusetts Turnpike east between Exit 22 (Pru/Copley) and South Boston will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Friday morning and 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. Direct access to the Ted Williams Tunnel from Frontage Road and South Boston will remain open.

The closure is necessary to remove a temporary overhead sign and replace it with a permanent one.

Can't get there. . .
The Haymarket onramp to I-93 south and the Callahan Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday morning.

Exit 20B (Pike west/Albany Street) off I-93 south will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday morning.

Two lanes of I-93 south approaching and through downtown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday morning.

The Essex Street on ramp to I-93 south will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning.

The Storrow Drive on ramp to I-93 south will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning.

The ramps from the Tobin Bridge and Rutherford Avenue/City Square to I-93 south and Storrow Drive will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

The ramp leading to the Storrow Drive underpass from I-93 south's Exit 26 and the Tobin Bridge will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday morning. Access to Nashua Street and Leverett Circle will remain open.

The Atlantic Avenue on ramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.

Two lanes of I-93 north through downtown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday morning.

The Sumner Tunnel on ramp to I-93 north will close 10 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday.

The Haymarket on ramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. Friday to 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

The Essex Street on ramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday morning and 11 p.m. Friday to 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

The ramp to the Pike east off I-93 north's Exit 20 will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning. Access to Kneeland Street and South Station will remain open.

I-93 north around the Charles River will close midnight Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.

The underpass from Storrow Drive east, and the ramp from Leverett Circle to I-93 north and the Tobin Bridge will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

I-93 north's Exit 23 (Government Center) will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

The ramp at Exit 24 (I-93/South Station) off the Pike east will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

Access from Frontage Road and Albany Street to the Pike east and Logan Airport will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

One lane of the Pike east between I-93 and the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The on ramp from Congress Street to I-93 in South Boston, and the Pike west's Exit 24 (I-93) will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday morning.

One lane of the Pike west around I-93 will close 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday morning.

One lane of the Pike west around Logan Airport will close 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

The Congress Street on ramp to I-93 south and the Pike west will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday morning.

The Frontage Road Northbound on ramp to the Pike west at the Broadway Bridge will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday morning.

Route 1A north near Logan Airport will close 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Sumner Tunnel on ramp to Government Center and Haymarket will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning.

The ramp from Rutherford Avenue/City Square to the Tobin Bridge will close 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.

Complain to us at starts@globe.com. Don't forget to send us your hometown. Outside the paper, the column can be found at www.boston.com/starts with daily updates on the Starts & Stops Blog at www.boston.com/starts/blog. Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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