Signs Of The Times

There are at least four methods of sign assessment for retroreflectivity:

1. Conducting a visual nighttime inspection by a trained sign inspector. Signs identified as below the minimum level should be replaced.

2. Measuring sign-retroreflectivity with the use of a retroreflectometer. This method can be very time-consuming, and the investment in equipment can be expensive.

3. Replacing signs based on their expected lifespan. For this method to work, the age and installation date of signs must be known. Replacement is based on expected sign life and an experience with degradation of retroreclectivity compared to minimum levels.

4. Replacing all signs at once. This method seems the most desirable since it eliminates guesswork, and ensures that all signs meet the new standards.

Coming Up With A Plan

Developing a sign-assessment and management plan helps with the budget, allowing for the plan to be phased in. Even if all signs are not replaced by the given deadlines, development and implementation of the plan will help satisfy the requirements.

Develop a sign-assessment and management program:

1. Take inventory of all signs, and put the information into a manual or computer database.

2. Create a program for scheduled inspections.

3. Develop a preventative-maintenance program to ensure that signs attain their full service life.

4. Develop a program and process for either repairing or replacing non-functional signs. This is important because it helps convey the message that you are not neglecting this aspect of maintenance and upkeep.

5. Keep accurate records of sign replacement and maintenance activities. Many agencies have started to apply stickers to the backs of signs with the installation date, agency name, and anti-vandalism warnings.

Do not overlook the need to inspect sign posts either. Ensure that the posts are positioned properly for lateral location, and that the signs are installed at the proper height. Refer to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for additional information on proper positioning and installation. Check posts for decay as well. Some signs are quite heavy, and no one wants to see one topple over on a park patron.

Combing Through The Details

To help offset replacement costs as well as perform our jobs as stewards of parks, consider recycling old signs. This may be a particular money-saver as the price of aluminum continues to rise. There are vendors that will re-face old signs, provided that the blanks are in reasonably good condition. This alternative can result in a savings of up to 30 percent for some sign replacement, as well as give your agency a public-relations boost.

Before deciding whether to replace a sign, evaluate whether its message is worth repeating. In other words:

1. Does the sign fulfill a need?

2. Does it command attention?

3. Does it convey a clear and simple meaning?

Lastly, consider whether the size of the lettering on signs needs to be larger. As this society ages, some people are having a harder time reading signs. Make the senior population feel welcome in your parks with signs that are easier to read.

There is much to be said concerning the design, placement, and maintenance of signs. Although traffic signs are based on engineering judgment, all other signs may be based on the old adage that “less is more.” Is your agency prepared to meet these challenges?

Keith Kessler, CPRP, is a Signage Coordinator for the Cleveland Metroparks in Ohio. He can be reached via email at

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