DOT Relaxes 46 Sign Compliance Deadlines

May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

A yield ahead sign from
A yield sign, one of many set to be updated. Image via

May 22, 2012 — The Federal Highway Administration, according to an announcement earlier this week in the Federal Register, relaxed deadlines for state and local road transportation departments to update signage. The U.S. Department of Transportation had previously instated a requirement for communities to replace all kinds of street signs with larger, more reflective signs with bolder typeface by the year 2018.  Now, states may implement the costly updates along an increasingly staggered schedule.

This relaxation of the rules is a double-edged sword for officials who have been proactive in adhering to the recent legislation. In Smiths Grove, Kentucky, an estimated $3,300 had already been put toward replacing eighty street signs in the area. However, Smiths Grove Mayor Bert E. Higginbotham stated that he does not regret the budgeting that went toward appeasing the ruling.

Other cities have expressed relief at the Department of Transportation’s lenience. Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin Village Director of Engineering Bill Sasse noted that the town had only managed to get a third of its signs to comply with the federal guidelines. The annual cost was $8,500 – a significant budgeting allowance for the town. Sasse did acknowledge the long-term benefits of updating signage, particularly the implementation of better quality materials, which can have longer life spans of up to fifteen years. Now, the new legislation gives Mount Pleasant officials a chance to budget their renovations at a more reasonable, gradual pace. Sasse predicts this change in requirements will allow the city to soften the financial impact of previous years’ scramble to stay within reach of the 2018 deadline.

The decision to waive the deadline arose from complaints directed at the U.S. Department of Transportation by local government officials across the country. City officials criticized the weighty cost of replacing signs, and cited the impending deadline as an unnecessary financial stressor. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded to the critical state and local officials in a press release earlier in the week, describing the revised timeline proposed by USDOT.

One-way sign from One-way signs like these may now take longer to be implemented.

The new ordinance relaxes the 2018 deadline for updated street signs, as described above. However, some deadlines are still being upheld. The installation of one-way signs (like the MUTCD-regulation one above, from at intersections with divided highways or one-way streets must be complete by December 31, 2019. Additionally, stop or yield signs at all railroad crossings that do not have train-activated automatic gates or flashing lights will also be expected by the winter of 2019.

Greg Meredith, the chief district engineer for the state Department of Highways in Bowling Green, Kentucky, pointed out to a local paper that lost or stolen signs in his region will continue to be replaced with signage that adheres to the newer regulations. Meredith expects other counties and states will follow suit, estimating that within five or seven years, many areas will have made significant strides in replacing the majority of road signs.

As Ray LaHood mentioned in his statement, the burdensome task of updating signs that are still intact has cost communities millions of dollars that they cannot afford. Hopefully, this new relaxed legislation will allow townships to make careful and sensible timelines for improving signage and safety — on their own budgets.

– R. Sapon-White

Category: News, Regulations