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New road sign rules strain Pa. municipalities

September 25, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- New federal standards concerning the reflectivity of street signs mean agencies across the country, including Pennsylvania municipalities, must take inventory of their signs and make plans to replace them.

"There has never in the past been a standard that when the reflectivity of a sign reaches (a certain) value it's (considered) not serviceable," said Mark Alexander, manager of sign standards for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Based on direction from Congress, the Federal Highway Administration released the standards in 2008, Alexander said. Ultraviolet rays and weather can affect a sign's reflectivity, he said.

By January 2015, all ground-mounted signs must meet minimum levels of reflectivity. Overhead signs must meet the levels by 2018, according to Alexander.

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The reflectivity requirements affect not only state transportation departments, but also entities like local municipalities and the National Park Service, Alexander said.

"These apply to any jurisdiction responsible for signing on a public road," he said.

For Washington Township, Pa., and other municipalities, the regulations mean creating an inventory of signs already on the roads. Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said a training session for the Franklin County (Pa.) Council of Governments next month should provide more information on how to conduct that inventory in-house.

He also said the township will be seeking grants in anticipation of signs being replaced.

"It'll be a big-ticket item," Christopher said. "Almost every sign we have will have to be replaced."

Antrim Township (Pa.) Administrator Brad Graham said this year's township budget contained funding for sign replacement and future budgets will, too. Like Christopher, he said he worries PennDOT might require municipalities to swap out signs on state roads.

Waynesboro Borough Engineer Kevin Grubbs said the borough has been updating signs as much as possible, but it will be a consideration for the 2011 budget. Each sign and pole can range from $75 to a few hundred dollars, he said.

"It's very expensive," Grubbs said.

PennDOT has an inventory of its signs and relies on knowledge of their reflectivity life span, Alexander said. It replaces 80,000 to 90,000 of its 1.4 million signs every year, he said.

Not included in the reflectivity standards are parking signs, and blue and brown signs for notifying motorists of things like parks and tourism, according to Alexander.

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