Is Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood frustrated by “a few erroneous news stories” overstating the government’s reach when it comes to replacing worn-out road signs?
All signs point to yes.
The social-networking-savvy secretary took to Twitter to better explain the impact of updates to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the standards for street signs, road markings and traffic control devices that have been dictated by the Federal Highway Administration since Nixon was president. “FYI, what the news forgot to tell you: most existing street signs can remain in place,” LaHood tweeted.
Revisions to MUTCD — which LaHood quickly noted were implemented under President Bush — require that some older street signs be replaced by 2018. Oft-cited new requirements include changing signs in all-caps to mixed-case, increasing font sizes and improving reflectivity. News outlets have reported that the changes would cost New York City $27.6 million and Milwaukee nearly $2 million. Online commenters were outraged, and so was LaHood.
“Thanks to a few erroneous news stories, many Americans don’t have a good understanding of what these recommendations entail,” LaHood wrote on his Fast Lane blog. “For example, most of these requirements allow existing street signs to remain in place until the end of their useful life [emphasis LaHood's]. And rules about upper- and lower-case lettering are not required unless a sign was being replaced anyway. The idea is to help aging Baby Boomers read road signs more easily.”
While the cost of New York City’s $27.6 million sign replacement project may seem staggering, the money is largely financing the replacement of worn-out signs. Of the 11,000 signs to be updated by the end of 2010, about 8,000 already were scheduled to be replaced due to wear. Still, LaHood acknowledged that replacing street signs — though an important safety issue — could be a tough cost for cities to swallow in these tough economic times. That’s why the highway administration is requesting additional public comment through Jan. 14.
“Now, you’ve heard me say time and time again that safety is this Department’s top priority,” LaHood wrote. “But I also believe in good government. Listening to the public ensures that we achieve both.”
We’re sure he’ll get an earful.
Photo: Rennett Stowe / Flickr