Update: Tens of thousands of street signs may not be replaced after all

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by David Alan

WVEC.com

Posted on November 22, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:14 PM

NORFOLK -- Road signs across the country may not be changing after all.

A recent federal policy would have required cities to upgrade street signs, with more reflective, upper and lower case signs.

The idea is to improve safety, but taxpayers would foot the bill.

Local city leaders say the unfunded federal mandate is too expensive.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood agreed, saying the regulation makes no sense.

The recent mandate from Washington says by the year 2015 all stop signs and other warning signs will need to come down. They'll need to be replaced with signs that are more reflective so they can be seen better at night, especially by older drivers.

"If they can't see, then maybe they shouldn't be driving," Linda Terry said of older drivers.

"Even if it takes a little more money for safety reasons, yes, I'm up for it," was Ricardo Medina’s take on the unfunded federal mandate.

The Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation said cities were given plenty of time to meet the new safety requirements.

The idea was the newer more reflective signs would go up as older less reflective signs were replaced. In a perfect world, there would be no added cost to taxpayers.

"This is probably one of the larger changes in recent years," said Traffic Manager John Stevenson.

Norfolk has some 90,000 signs and only replaces about 5,000 worn out or damaged signs a year.

To meet the mandate, the city hired a contractor, $45 thousand dollars of your money just for starters.

"This is just one more reason why people feel Washington has lost touch with reality," said John Moss, head of the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance.

Moss said the regulations themselves are not all that bad, it's just that the government's timing is just off.

"Accelerating the replacement of signs that have many years, if not decades of useful life, where there's no risk to life or property isn't good stewardship and doesn't make sense, "Moss added.

Chesapeake has more than 30,000 signs. Officials haven't determined how much it would cost to make street signs more reflective. However, they estimate it would take a million dollars to meet a 2013 federal mandate requiring all stop signs and other warning signs be bigger and have bigger lettering.

While Virginia Beach claims it's been making its street signs more reflective for years now, well ahead of the new government new standards, the sign shop will no doubt stay busy. Yellow signs making private streets will have to go.

The government mandate also states all street signs in all cities eventually must be replaced with signs in upper and lower case. They're easier to read the government says, and you will pay for it.

No one really seems to know for sure how many hundreds of thousands of dollars all of this would cost cities in Hampton Roads.

Virginia Beach officials said it would cost $90,000 just to replace the private street signs; a single stop sign is about $80.

"I think our government has a lot more things to put money into right now than that," Robin Miller, another concerned taxpayer.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION CONTACTS:
Website for Congressman-elect Scott Rigell
Website for Rep. Glenn Nye
Website for Rep. Bobby Scott
Website for Rep. Rob Wittman
Website for Rep. J. Randy Forbes
Website for Sen. Mark Warner
Website for Sen. Jim Webb
 

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