Meeting new federal sign requirements for all roads is going to be extraordinarily expensive, according to one county official.
“Not only are they changing the reflective requirements, but they are changing the size of (some) signs, too,” said Mac Yowell, director of Warren County’s Public Works Department.
The new reflectivity and size requirements are supposed to make the signs more readable for older drivers.
Yowell said it will cost governments at all levels a great deal of money and time.
Smiths Grove Mayor Bert Higginbotham knows all too well about just how onerous the changes are going to be. His community has already spent $2,250 to get its first round of new signs – 80 of them.
He said Smiths Grove will be required to use the larger road signs for its one street that has a 30 mph speed limit, Ky. 101.
The faster the speed limit, the larger the sign must be.
“I’m 65 and those big signs are really nice,” Higginbotham said. “But being a libertarian, what bothers me is the (Federal Highway Administration) ... can just force all communities throughout the United States to do this.”
Meeting the new sign requirements has been a moving target, with the deadline changing multiple times, Yowell said.
It currently is set at 2015 or 2018, depending on the signs, according to Deneatra Henderson, an engineer for the Department of Highways in Bowling Green.
“But that could change again,” she said.
For now, communities must at least have a plan in place that outlines how they will address replacement of older signs.
That way, in case of an accident and an attorney finds out a sign didn’t meet the new requirements, governments at least have an approved plan to address its replacement, Henderson said.
But that doesn’t mean anybody will check before then to make sure that counties are doing what they are supposed to, Higginbotham said.
“It’s hard to get anything definitive from these people,” he said. “We had orders that before the first of the year we should pass a resolution setting out our plan how we were going to meet this obligation. We did that and then I couldn’t find anybody to send the resolution to.”
Yowell said the county has always kept a pretty good inventory of its signs and in the next few weeks the road department should have a replacement plan ordinance ready for approval by Warren County Fiscal Court.
“We needed to change some of the signs anyway,” Higginbotham said of Smiths Grove. “But it still will be an encumbrance. We’re just a small town, and you’d be amazed at the number of signs we have.”
Higginbotham said the new regulations also address placement of the signs.
“We are going to have to see if we need to move any of our signs as well,” he said.
Oakland Mayor Billy Mansfield said his small town of fewer than 300 people is in the process of replacing its signs.
“It won’t be a burden for us, but it might be for places like Bowling Green that has so many of them,” Mansfield said.
About 10 years ago, the town spent a great deal of money making sure all of its intersections were properly signed. Since then, some have either been stolen or knocked down, he said.
Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick said replacing the signs will not only be an expensive proposition the first time, but on a continuing basis.
“We are losing eight or 10 signs a week to people stealing them,” Chick said. “It’s getting to be expensive.”