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Ominous Signs: Feds Find New Way to Cost You Money

by BusinessLife (writer), The Carolinas, December 01, 2010

Credit: Thinkstock
Can you read this street sign? The government does not think so.

In a time when every business, every family and every person looks to cut costs, the federal government finds another way to put even more local governments in the red.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Alderman Bob Donovan, who says some of his city's street signs have been effective for close to 100 years may have another sign in mind to offer the federal government. This comes after the more than 800-page "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" has Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) agreeing that U.S. street signs can not be properly read by drivers.

Since they can't be properly read, the federal government says street signs can no longer be made using all capital letters, and when signs are replaced they must be replaced with signs that use lowercase letters with an initial uppercase letter. U.S. cities will have until 2015 to improve the nighttime visibility of roadside signs — such as stop, yield and railroad crossing signs.

All street signs must be replaced by 2018. But the most stunning turn of events comes in the form of the cost. The federal government is expecting local governments to foot the bill.

David Bertram, legislative team leader with the Michigan Townships Association says, “We see it as an unfunded mandate.”

On average, cities should plan to spend anywhere from close to $50 to $100 per sign. Canyon, Texas, city manager Randy Criswell says the Texas Panhandle city of about 15,000 will replace 1,500-2,000 signs at a cost of about $100 apiece. To Donovan and the city of Milwaukee, that means a price tag of $1.4 million for new signs in the next four years.

Other city's estimated costs

  • Indianapolis, Indiana: 4,200 signs at a cost of $800,000
  • Kansas City, MIssouri:$35 million over the next five years
  • New York City: 250,000 street signs at an estimated $27.5 million

"As drivers get older, we want to make sure they're able to read the signs," says FHWA administrator Victor Mendez. "Research shows that older drivers are better able to read signs when they're written in both capital and small letters. It's really driven by safety."

However, many people feel street signs are far from crucial needs in such an economic downturn.

"I think it's just the federal government run amok. If they don't have far more important things to deal with, they're not doing their job," says Donovan

With such a stir across the U.S., the FHWA is accepting comments from the general public. Click on the website link provided in the information below.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments section.

The FHWA has issue a notice seeking additional public input on compliance dates for a number of federal traffic control regulations, ranging from road sign reflectivity to crosswalk timing. The public will have 45 days starting November 30, 2010 to submit comments to the Federal Register. To review the Federal Register notice and to post comments, please go to www.regulations.gov and enter FHWA-2010-0159 as the docket number.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which has been administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since 1971, is a compilation of national standards for all traffic control devices, including road markings, highway signs, and traffic signals. It is updated periodically to accommodate the nation's changing transportation needs and address new safety technologies, traffic control tools and traffic management techniques.



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BusinessLife is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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16 comments on Ominous Signs: Feds Find New Way to Cost You Money

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By BusinessLife on December 01, 2010 at 02:47 pm

Cher: And to think, all this hard work on asking local governments to spend money as 2 million Americans received their last unemployment benefits check and wonder how they will be able to pay their rent/mortgage following years of being successfully employed. John Stossel's 'Gimme A Break' could really bring this story to light...no new street signs needed.

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By BusinessLife on December 01, 2010 at 03:27 pm

Melody: I LOVE a woman who isn't afraid to tear into a backside or two for the sake of humanity over street signs! I so wish I could see the comment you end up submitting. Maybe a neat article from you would be the time and money you spent having to explain to the federal government that being a politician continues to cost us more because no matter who represents us, congress and the senate are bound and determined to find new ways to spend our money. It's like finding some great items on sale. You don't need them at all but you're saving so much money, why not go broke getting a bargain?

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By BusinessLife on December 01, 2010 at 03:43 pm

Melody: Agreed. Can't complain if you aren't willing to walk the talk.

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By Frank - icare2be on December 01, 2010 at 10:06 pm

@businesslife - I just read that Colorado is in the process of replacing the signs in aaccordance with this unfunded mandate. Again Federal government is making decisions that should belong in the state.

Thank you for speaking up.

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By BusinessLife on December 01, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Frank: Thanks for your positive feedback. I honestly hope people click onto the link in this article to offer feedback directly to the federal govt. I feel like all the federal govt. does is spend money, allocate money, mandare more taxes to get money...nothing is done without costing us all in the backside.

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By BusinessLife on December 02, 2010 at 12:47 pm

A thought to reduce debt: Put a freeze on any new spending from the federal government. This means that the house and senate would be allowed to pass bills only if they did not cost any money.

The senate and the house could be considered contract or part-time employees, reducing salaries, eliminating health care costs and other benefits.

We would finally be allowing our representation to serve our country and its citizens.

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By Lynda Lehmann on December 03, 2010 at 10:08 am

Simply unbelievable! Absurd and unconscionable. Our bridges are falling, hospitals are closing, roads are crumbling, schools are failing, people are all but standing on bread lines, and they're worried about street signs?

Excellent article. It made me good and angry....

I too, am sharing this article.

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By Lynda Lehmann on December 03, 2010 at 10:10 am

PS - Shared to FB, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Twitter.

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By BusinessLife on December 03, 2010 at 10:17 am

Melody and Linda: I really appreciate you sharing this news with your friends and contacts. We have a great time sharing our opinions and creativity on Broo. It's awesome and refreshing to know when any of us shares an article that needs support, we can work together to allow each of us to have our voices heard!! This is a great case supporting one of the key values of Broo!! We rock!! Thanks again. :)

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By Lynda Lehmann on December 03, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Uh-oh! I feel the ole' social justice imperative welling up from my gut again! ;)

Let's keep on!

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By BusinessLife on December 03, 2010 at 01:14 pm

You have both inspired me to put together an article on the U.S. economy. Today's latest news, coupled with this week's unemployment benefits ending paints a pretty grim picture. Good to get the blood pumping! Next, expect something new on:

www.thecartelmovie.com

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By BusinessLife on December 03, 2010 at 06:30 pm

Hurricane Dean: I certainly appreciate your comments. The attention to detail and offering links to support your position is also fab. to have another person' perspective. I say this all as a former reporter who always wants to include both sides. I do not agree with you but I do not take any personal offense. I am happy and am glad to have another perspective. Since I put this article together, I will offer my personal feedback regarding your arguments/position.

Federal mandate issue:

#1-The comment about an "unfunded mandate" was a direct quote from one local official in one area saying that he "sees it as an unfunded mandate."

#2-In this case, getting help from the Federal govt. via grant, loan or whatnot is like having money in both my left and right pockets.

The left pocket could be for local government needs and the right pocket could be for federal government needs.

No matter if I apply for assistance or not, I'm still having to pay for the street signs, regulatory signs and all items that will make the signs comply with night time specific regulations.

Objecting to replacing street signs:

#1 Though I can't speak for everyone, I can say that those who have spoken out publicly against replacing street and regulatory signs have not stated that they object to helping drivers read street signs more clearly or provide better signage for night driving.

#2 The specific objection is the TIMING that the federal government chose to announce this mandate for all cities to comply by 2015 and that all signage be changed by 2018. People need jobs. Children deserve a safe place to live rather than on the streets or in homeless shelters with their parents. Praying that you have a warm meal on Christmas Day is sad to me. You can't feed any of these kids a street sign.

800+ page study recommending replacing signs:

Though I didn't include this, people should know that there could easily be another major uproar regarding one of the key providers of research findings for this study. The company was 3M Co. 3M is one of the few makers of the federally required reflective material now required on street signs. (ABC News, CBS News)

Overall, let me pose the following question.

CAN YOU READ THIS? (today's street signs with all caps)

OR

Can you read this? (Proposed change to 1st letter capitalized with other letters in lowercase)

Bottom Line: For those who want change in street signs, I encourage each of you to invest in a GPS. With a debt of $14 trillion, I don't see this change as critical or even as something we can afford. I thought we, as a country were encouraged not to buy things on credit. $14 trillion is a hefty credit card bill. The federal government isn't setting a good example. I still maintain that the federal government should only be allowed to move forward on a bill that does NOT require tax dollars to pay for it. I'm for cutting the pork out by offering these folks part-time positions. With no way to get to spend other people's money, they wouldn't have so much to talk about.

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By Lynda Lehmann on December 04, 2010 at 09:06 am

All good points being exchanged here.

The bottom line for me, is that a corporation will benefit while municipalities scramble to do what's being mandated. And the idea of street signs being more important to the public good than other concerns that have been mentioned, seems ludicrous. I'm not even sure that it will provide many jobs. In localities trying to comply, there may be some extra hours for those on payroll in highway depts. across the nation. But that doesn't seem like a significant gain to me. On the other hand, companies like 3M will PROFIT.

Stimulate job growth with something really important, like addressing the new trend for horizontal hydrofracking that is causing chunks of the earth's crust to cave in. Or by faciilitating research and disclosure of where the oil went and what it's doing to our food chain. Or by supporting the schools or parks or public recreation programs. Or mammography screenings for poor women. There are hundreds if not thousands of other issues and problems to be addressed.

But a uniform code of road signs? Seems like political subterfuge and a huge corporate handout, to me. I'm really tired of Government enabling the Corporocracy to build PROFITS on the back of human survival needs.

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By BusinessLife on December 04, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Hurricane Dean:

Glad to debate with you. But I think we may happen to disagree, overall. I shall leave this feedback and simply say, 'thanks' for continuing to offer another opinion to consider.

True: 3M will make lots of money. Therefore, no employees from 3M will lose their jobs as new signage is produced.

True: Current local transportation officials, city and county workers will keep their jobs as they have to put up new signs. Some city workers are having strong work weeks. So much has been put towards short term updates (that $80+ billion bailout funds). More jobs...long-term jobs that offer stability?...not so much.

True: Local sign companies will produce more signs. Therefore no one will lose their jobs here.

New/more jobs? I would have to disagree.

Timing: What does the timing say regarding regular updates in regulations in Federal-aid Highway funds historically?

I would counter with the fact that smart decisions best for all of us must be made. I have never been one to simply follow tradition. I recommend looking at current trends and the economic crisis to make a wise decision. One must be willing to broaden one's thinking to consider history, tradition AND the current situation and changes in life/business/society that always offer a reason to re-think and analyse what the best decision is TODAY and not historically.

While new/updated street signs may have reason to be on the list of needed updates, there are other more significant issues to address that would actually -

  • Provide new/more long-term employment opportunities
  • Find some new direction to protect millions from being without work - currently we're still at 15.1 million without work and 2 million now without any funds to keep a roof over their head.

Why David Bertram would be anti-street signs (his bio you provided):

My response: Thanks, Mr. Bertram, currently with the Michigan Township Association. You should always look out for any organization looking to spend Michigan Township tax dollars for something that may not be needed today during such an economic crisis!!!

Street signs, regulatory signs and night time vision updates? Glad 3M is there to make sure its company gets millions more to keep its employees on staff.

Elderly not able to see street signs? Are you saying that 'all caps' on a street sign can not be read? And if so, are you saying that these updates take priority over a $14 trillion debt that we will now add to with millions in new signage? Hmm. More debt. We're supposed to be learning from overspending and not adding to it.

And here I thought we were trying to help private businesses/corporations have a reason to provide new jobs. After all, the federal government did just announce reducing its workforce by 11 million, saving a few tax dollars.

Hurricane Dean:

The 45-day opportunity to let your voice be heard is most certainly open to you and everyone. I encourage you to express your sentiments as well. ALL opinions should be submitted!! :)

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By diana c on December 08, 2010 at 08:21 pm

has anyone just thought that its just getting darker with less street lights were getting older. That who can really read a street sign except my granddaughter whose 10. We need to stop spending millions on shit that dosen't need fixing right away. Spending millions right now to replace street signs would be the same as replacing the carpet in a house with no roof.

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By BusinessLife on December 09, 2010 at 12:36 am

Diana c: "Spending millions right now to replace street signs would be the same as replacing the carpet in a house with no roof."

Great, great line! I love it! Thanks so much for your comment. :)

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