Street Name Signs and E-911:
New standards call for larger signs
Most towns throughout Maine are finished with their E-911 process and have invested in and erected new street name signs. Recent changes on the federal level have raised a few questions about sign color, size, and reflectivity. How will this affect Maine towns and cities?
Consider the following factors:
- The driving population is getting older
- Older drivers have only 65 % to 77% of the legibility distance of younger drivers at night
- Drivers of ambulances, fire trucks & police cars depend on highly visible signs especially when it's foggy or snowy, especially if they have to cover a large territory and many towns
- Tourists rely on signs for guidance to hotels, homes, etc.
- other drivers, including UPS and Federal Express drivers depend on good street signs
Examples of old and new signs
Recommended standard for new or replacement signs
New Standards call for Sign changes during replacements
The national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) governs the design and placement of all signs on roads that are open to the public.
There are several varieties of signs that are available for public road use. The most suitable is the green background with reflective white lettering. It is important to insure that letters are tall enough and thick enough to be easily seen day or night. Proper mounting height is also very important.
Listed below are the recommended standards concerning the size, placement, materials, colors, and lettering for road signs. They are based on the MUTCD, which is the national standard for all public agencies, including municipalities, the Maine DOT, and the Federal Highway Administration.
Changes to the MUTCD in 2012 list a new recommended size for lettering on any new (or replacement) road name signs. Existing signs can remain “as-is” until there is a need to replace them in the future.
The lettering for names of streets and highways shall be composed of a combination of lower-case letters with initial upper-case letters, such as “Main St” rather than “MAIN ST”. As of June 2012, the MUTCD recommends that initial upper-case letters be at least 6 inches in height and lower-case letters be at least 4.5 inches in height.
Supplementary lettering (such as St, Ave, Ln, or Rd) or the section of the city (such as NW) may be in smaller lettering, composed of initial upper-case letters at least 3 inches in height and lower-case letters at least 2.25 inches in height.
For local roads with speed limits of 25 mph or less, the lettering on post-mounted Street Name signs may be composed of initial upper-case letters at least 4 inches in height and lower-case letters at least 3 inches in height.
On multi-lane streets with speed limits greater than 40 mph, the lettering on post-mounted Street Name signs should be composed of initial upper-case letters at least 8 inches in height and lower-case letters at least 6 inches in height.
If overhead signs are used, the lettering should be composed of initial upper-case letters at least 12 inches in height and lower-case letters at least 9 inches in height.
Typical blade heights are 6 and 9 inches. Blade lengths can vary with the names but longer signs can become unstable if not built with the proper material or thickness.
In business or commercial areas and on principal arterials, signs should be placed at least on diagonally opposite corners. In residential areas, at least one Street Name sign should be mounted at each intersection. Signs naming both streets should be installed at each intersection. They should be mounted with their faces parallel to the streets they name.
The preferred mounting method for road signs is post top-mounting brackets. Hardware for mounting signs to posts can vary but an agency should choose the more durable product to minimize vandalism and the ease of removal.
In rural areas, the minimum height, measured vertically from the bottom of the sign to the elevation of the near edge of the pavement, of signs installed at the side of the road shall be 5 feet.
In business, commercial, or residential areas where parking or pedestrian movements are likely to occur, the minimum height, measured vertically from the bottom of the sign to the top of the curb, or to the elevation of the near edge of the traveled way, of signs installed at the side of the road or where the view of the sign might be obstructed, shall be 7 feet.
To optimize visibility, Street Name signs may be mounted overhead.
Road name signs can be mounted on top of another sign, such as a STOP sign as long as the visibility of the two signs, especially the STOP sign, is not compromised.
Street Name sign shall be retroreflective, or illuminated, to show the same shape and similar color both day and night. The color of the legend (and border, if used) shall contrast with the background color of the sign which is normally green. The only acceptable alternative background colors shall be blue, brown, or white. Regardless of whether green, blue, or brown is used as the background color for Street Name (D3-1 or D3-1a) signs, the legend (and border, if used) shall be white. For Street Name signs that use a white background, the legend (and border, if used) shall be black.
An alternative background color, other than the normal green, may be used when the town wants to distinguish between public vs private roads.
Retroreflective sheeting should be high intensity prismatic or better.
All word messages shall use standard wording and letters as shown in the MUTCD and in the "Standard Highway Signs and Markings" book.
The most commonly used material for blades is either extruded aluminum with a 0.25 inch flange edge thickness and a 0.063 to 0.08 inch web (min.) or flat sheet aluminum with a minimum thickness of 0.08 inches (6 in. blade) to 0.125 inches (9 in. blade). Other materials, such as fiberglass or wood can be used, if they achieve the same level of visibility, durability, and reflectivity but that can be difficult to impossible to achieve compared to aluminum.
On lower speed roadways in federally-recognized historic districts, historic street name signs may be used without complying with many of these provisions such as color, letter size and reflectivity.
Calling Dig-Safe is also a MUST before you install posts in new locations. In fact, it is a State Law. Driving posts is technically "excavation", with the possibility of damaging underground cables or utility lines. It may seem like overkill, but calling a free 888-number with the exact locations of all your posts is really not a difficult task. Damaging a fiber optic cable which "I knew wasn't there" can create major headaches for everyone and cost you a lot of money. For more info, see www.digsafe.com
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