Officials forced to order a redo on street signs
Officials forced to order a redo on street signs
NORTH PROVIDENCE - Don't expect any more of those blue and gold street signs to pop up - ever again.
Mayor Charles Lombardi's administration has ordered a restart of a town-wide street sign replacement project, after learning that the replacement signs they've been ordering do not comply with federal regulations.
Lombardi told The Breeze he was not aware of the requirements that new signs be larger, have a glossy finish, have capital letters only at the beginning of words, and contain only certain colors.
Lombardi said that the issue had "not been brought to my attention" as of last Friday. Now that he knows the rules, said the mayor, town officials will comply right away.
Lombardi said he was "surprised" and "disappointed" that no one responsible for implementing the sign replacement project informed him about the federal regulations contained in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD, a federal document that has been revised several times over the past several years to make its requirements less burdensome on municipalities.
According to Lombardi, officials are reviewing exactly what went wrong.
A town resident who did not wish to be named brought up the conflict with the federal regulations to The Breeze last week. The resident questioned why there was no checking on the federal rules and why the Lombardi administration chose colors, blue and gold, that he said are harder to see than the old green and white signs.
It turns out the gold lettering isn't even allowed.
Frank Bursie, a town director who wears many hats, told The Breeze that the administration will not only put a stop to the installation of the blue and gold signs, but will redesign them to be blue with white letters to comply with federal regulations. He called the requirements for larger and more glossy signs "a damn shame" and an "unfunded mandate," but one town officials will reluctantly comply with.
Bursie said that after consulting with the town's sign company, Traffic Signs and Safety, officials now have a better understanding of the rules and will have to start putting up new signs. After quickly studying the federal regulations on Monday, the Lombardi administration decided not to wait until June of 2014 to get a required sign replacement plan submitted to the government, instead choosing to start implementing a plan as soon as possible.
Town residents will have to get accustomed to a sign landscape that includes three kinds of signs, the old green and white signs, the new blue and gold signs, and the future glossy blue and white signs, said Bursie. He said those much larger signs will be designed with both capital and lowercase letters, as required.
Bursie said he expects the larger signs to cost the town much more than the average cost of $13.50 for the new blue and gold ones, making it difficult for town officials to replace all of them at once. Since federal officials are only requiring municipalities to replace signs when they need to be replaced, he said, the new blue and white ones will be put up in the same way the blue and gold ones have been, a few at a time.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, a previous deadline of 2018 for communities across the U.S. to switch to new and improved street signs has been eliminated. But according to the federal agency's website, municipal leaders are still expected to add the nicer signs "as resources allow."
Federal officials are requiring the glossy signs with larger lettering as a way to improve public safety across the country, especially for older drivers. Though far fewer people drive at night, more accidents typically happen after dark, according to federal reports.
Lombardi said last month that employees from the Department of Public Works had already replaced about half of the town's green and white signs with blue and gold ones since the effort began back in 2011. The mayor made the street sign replacement project part of the town's regular sign program after the Town Council balked at his plan to replace them all at once for $18,900.
Lombardi said that his only intention in proposing a new blue and gold landscape two years ago was to enhance community pride with "aesthetically pleasing" signs in the town colors. It was during a drive through nearby Lincoln, where red signs with white lettering were going up, that he got the idea for his own town.
"No good deed goes unpunished," he said.
The town resident who brought up concerns about the signs last week also questioned whether Lombardi could be saving taxpayers more money during the replacement process. The mayor should at the very least be offering the signs for sale to town residents, as has happened in some other towns, said the resident, providing a nice community service and raising significant funds to help offset the costs of the project.
Lombardi, who previously said that the signs are being sold for scrap metal, said he liked the suggestion and would be open to selling the old signs, both the green and white and blue and gold ones, for added revenue.