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Feds back away from street sign regulation

By ?JOAN LOWY
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Who would have thought that something so humble as a street sign could ignite such passion?

The Obama administration sought to distance itself Tuesday from an obscure transportation regulation that requires local governments to replace street signs with more reflective signs that use upper and lower case letters instead of all capitals.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that it “makes no sense” to require local governments to spend money to replace “perfectly good traffic signs.” He promised to seek public comment on the regulation, the first step in a process that could lead to its repeal. LaHood doesn’t have power to eliminate the regulation on his own.

Local officials in Wisconsin and New York have complained to the Transportation Department that the requirement to have the new signs by 2018 could cost them millions of dollars.

In recent weeks, conservative critics have lampooned the regulation as an example of big brother government. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has vowed to stop regulators from enforcing it.

“ALL-CAP Street Signs MUST DIE!” exclaimed a headline on the libertarian-leaning Reason magazine’s website.

“For a good nanny, there’s no case too big or too small when it comes to protecting people from themselves,” blogged RedState.

Research shows more reflective signs are easier for drivers see at night and a mix of lower and upper case letters is easier to read. The regulation was proposed during former President George W. Bush’s administration and went into effect last year after President Barack Obama took office.

“There have got to be better ways to improve safety without piling costs onto the American people,” LaHood said. “Safety is our priority, but so is good government.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

4 comments

  1. This is sad–governance by bullyism. If legislators (and Mr. LaHood as well) would have educated themselves as to the \why\ of the changes instead of just the gut reaction they would have found out that the change is due to the aging U.S. population. As our population ages, the all caps usage on signs is harder to read and comprehend as our eyesight deteriorates. Older drivers are able to more readily read the upper/lower case signage. But hey, who cares if grandma causes an accident, right?

  2. How many street signs could Wisconsin replace with…say…$810 million dollars?

  3. If safety is the main concern here, and I doubt it is…It would be less expensive, far safer, and actually help commerce, to issue a $79 voucher to any licensed driver who applies, toward the purchase of a GPS unit of your choice, where the street names would be boldy illuminated on your dashboard, for even the feeblest of eyesight to clearly see any street name, well in advance of approaching that street.
    Instead…..MAIN ST. …or Main St. Oh yeah…way better, Let’s spend millions!

  4. Why not just make all new signs in compliance with the new type style. All the signs become faded,get knocked over, etc its a constant replacement issue. If everything you install is of the newer type in time they all will be replaced, why make it a all or nothing one shot deal. in time all the old type signs would be cycled in but there is no up front cost.

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