Around 1970, a band called the Five Man Electrical Band had a hit song dealing with signs. Now, I am pretty sure they weren't thinking about road signs in their local township when they wrote this, but certainly it is applicable to them. Perhaps it was more of a political statement from the hippie era. I believe one of the verses went something like this: “Sign, sign everywhere a sign, blockin' out the scenery breakin' my mind, do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?”
If you haven’t done so lately, I encourage you to pull off at one of your major intersections and just take in the plethora of signs that are erected there. Most likely it will have turn arrows, route numbers, designation signs for curbs, stops signs, slow signs, no passing signs, speed limit signs, no parking signs, and the list goes on. Now for the million-dollar question: Is anyone even reading these signs? Do they even care? I can guarantee one person will care. That will be the attorney for the complainant who has you in court because the chevron sign wasn’t posted three in succession on a tight curve where the driver went off the curb and hit, yup you guessed it, a sign. You’ll have to disregard the fact that the driver was speeding during slippery conditions; the focus will be on the signage.
My observation over the years is that a concerned citizen is usually certain that if the township erects a sign, it will solve whatever problem is ailing them. That’s why you’ll myriad signs at one location. For instance, you may see a “Watch Children” sign followed by a “Hidden Driveway” sign with a “Deer Crossing” sign not far from that. Our township adopted a rule that says for those special warning signs, that the resident must buy the first sign or signs, whatever the case may be. Not only did they have to pay for the sign, which would average around $50 to $60 each, but also the mounting post, sign bolts, and required breakaway mechanism. As a gesture of good faith, we did not charge for the installation, but after you tally all the pieces up, it would be $80 or more per sign installation. This alone would cause some to say, “well I guess it isn’t that bad.” Once the sign is erected, you are now responsible for that sign forever. Someone steals it, hits it, the wind knocks it over, or it just wears out; regardless, it is your crew and general fund monies that keep it up for perpetuity. We had one “Deer Crossing” sign that was stolen four times in a six-month period. If you have ideas on how to reduce sign vandalism, by all means, let us all know.
Now, I do want to be clear and state that I am not against all signs. I do a lot of traveling and I do appreciate some of the directional signs for fuel and snacks, but clearly, we have gone a bit sign crazy. A newly-erected sign may be noticed for a short time as it sticks out with its shiny new colors, but after a month, I seriously doubt anyone remembers it. Does anyone really ever slow down for “Watch Children” or “Deer Crossing signs? PennDot has been placing the solar flashing lights around select stop signs, and those certainly are eye-catching and do their job. Do we need to do this on all of our signs? I hope not. We will look like Christmas town with red and yellow lights blinking everywhere. I have come to the realization that we now have traffic sign pollution.
Of course, I am sure that you know that you cannot erect signs in the PennDot right-of-way without obtaining a permit from them. For the most part, I have found them to be very helpful in this department, and rarely turn down a request, but remember your municipality will be responsible for that sign until it is legally removed via PennDot rules. I suggest you look at the PennDot book for approved signs – publication 236. You’ll notice that it has over 40 pages listing each approved sign, line by line. That’s a lot of signs. You can click on one that you are interested in and it will show you the proper dimensions and where it is applicable. It’s a great resource for sign questions. Your local sign shop can create any of these signs for you, for a price. Is your municipality lost and in need of some direction? Let Keystone Municipal Solutions get you on the right road, and they won’t use any signs to do so!
“Fire this thing up boys, we’re gonna go pound some sign post in the ground.”
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.