Our benevolent federal government is finally tackling one of the major problems that has been crippling our country – illegible street signs. Now we can eliminate the all-too-common, deadly traffic crashes that come as a result of one driver having to strain to read a street sign.
If the above paragraph doesn’t make sense, there’s a reason for that. And no, it’s not because I’m making this up. The federal government has issued new regulations that will require nearly every street sign in the entire country to be replaced in the near future. (Don’t worry, this only applies to roads with speed limits over 25mph.) Why are these signs to be replaced? They are, allegedly, difficult to read and therefore, a safety concern.
How are the current street signs difficult to read? Apparently, street signs that are in all caps are harder to read. (SURE, ALL CAPS IS ANNOYING ON THE INTERNET, BUT STREET SIGNAGE IS NOT THE SAME THING.) The new signs will have to use upper and lower case letters. The minimum letter height is also being increased from 4” to 6”, and the regulations require that a new, special reflective vinyl be used for higher visibility.
But one thing that is not happening is the federal government paying for these new signs. Of course, there would be no way that the federal government could pay for every street sign in the country to be replaced. But, your tax dollars will still be paying for this as local governments will have to come up with the money to pay for this “much-needed” street sign improvement.
Working in the sign business myself, I have a pretty good understanding about what is involved in replacing street signs. The company I work for has made and installed a fairly good number of street signs locally in the past few years. Yet even these brand new signs will have to be replaced under the new regulations. Who gets to pay for that? You, the taxpayer.
And when you think about replacing street signs across the country (many of which are in perfectly good condition), the cost will be higher than it cost to get them originally. First, you have the larger letters, which will necessarily require a larger sign, which will cost more. Plus, the signs will have to use a special reflective vinyl so that they are more legible, which will also add to the cost. (3M is one of the few companies that makes this special reflective vinyl. They also funded the study that found that the current signs are a safety concern. Weird, huh?)
Now you may be thinking, since I work in the sign business, shouldn’t this be good for the company I work for? After all, this boost in sales could help offset the exploding cost of health insurance thanks to the new health care law.
It is true that this new set of regulations will mean more business for us sign-makers. But it’s only temporary. After the new street signs are up, then what? This is only a temporary infusion of tax dollars into this industry. That’s all the government can do – create temporary fixes through tax-payer funded projects. It is not a long-term solution.
What I would rather see is taxes being slashed and bureaucratic hurdles and red tape removed. Then perhaps, instead of replacing nearly every street sign in the country, companies like the one I work for could get work doing signs, banners, vehicle graphics, and other related jobs for existing businesses (that are currently sitting tight, uncertain of what the federal government will do next), new businesses (started by people who are hesitant to make the entrepreneurial plunge right now because it appears that the government has stacked the deck against small businesses), local governments (who choose to do projects that would be of real benefit to the ones they represent), and others. And we could continue to replace street signs according to local need, rather than federal mandate.
This is just another example of the current need to emphasize the 10th amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Matters like this are better left to local governments, rather than to a detached and corrupt federal government.
Here is the video from ABC’s Good Morning America segment that investigated these new regulations: