Improper size of route symbols, improper size of three digit route shields, and undersized, condensed fonts are a routine problem on Georgia roads unacknowledged by state authorities.
To prove that there is no real design for route signs, look at these signs here with two different sizes of state outline and how the numbers are at different heights.
More proof can be found in both of these garish contractor installs where clearly no standard was required and no inspection procedure was followed whatsoever.
STATE ROUTE SIGNS
It is rather remarkable that GDOT has literally no official design for the GA route marker. The state outline has grown and shrunk, contractors have literally have been inventing their own state outline for years (to often grotesque results), and there is nothing to show where to place numbers on the sign, how tall the text should be, what font to use, or anything. If there was a design, it would be painfully clear that 12" text does not fit as intended into one of these signs. The state shape simply does not allow 12" text to be used in contrast with more squared-off shapes like what is used in states like Alabama or Arizona.
Older photo showing a contractor install from 2004. Note that this sign does not have 12" text given it would not fit this crude state outline.
The first step is to throw out EVERY design used since 1995 and to restore the 1967 state outline with some modifications. This should be the shape used, and it can be modified slightly to add more detail to the state outline, but the fact remains that the state outline from 1967 was perfect, because it was distorted just enough that it preserved the basic outline of the state while being adequately wide enough to fit 10-11" text without condensing the text on a typical 1-2 digit route sign. However, it should be noted that three digit signs were often shrunk to 7-8" text heights to fit the 24" x 24" blanks: an unfortunate design flaw. It still looked okay, but it was definitely more difficult to read than a 1-2 digit route sign. States like NC have to work with a shape that does not allow text at 12" height, so that is to be expected that some concessions have to be made. Georgia can and should be making route signs that do not heavily condense text to fit a route number, and it can be done either by expanding the sign to a 30" x 24" sign or using shorter text height. Some adjustments on the state outline to allow more white space would also go a long way to fix this issue.
This image shows the original 1967 design. While the state shape is not as detailed (nor accurate) as the actual shape of the state, it still properly conveys the state shape and is designed in such a way to effectively fit route numbers. Also note that the two signs have different text heights based on the numbers. This is normal, but the use of 7-8" text on the right side could be remedied by expanding the shield to make it 6" wider per the MUTCD.
The oddest trait of Georgia route signs has been the huge difference between contractor installs and maintenance installs. The layout has been entirely different with the contractor installs employing the proper 30" x 24" shape for 3 digit route signs, and in years past when contractors would work with something close to the 1967 shape, they had no problem fitting 10-11" text into these signs. In contrast, maintenance crews have insisted on using a 24" x 24" shape that does not fit 3 digits properly. In the late 90's, they made no modifications to the original sign, but fit in 12" text.
Older contractor install fabricated in the late 1980's. Note the difference in text height, use of approximate 1967 state outline, wider state outline, and 30" wide sign for 280. Photo from 2005.
Upon inspection of the 1967 design, there was a noted problem with these signs in that the state outline was a mere 20" x 20" with a 2" offset between the outline and borders. This did not allow for a text height greater than about 9" without heavily condensing nearly every route number over 1 digit. US route signs also incorrectly contained this design flaw, and recent ones have incorporated this same flaw making both signs more difficult to read, and they look wrong even to untrained eyes.
The fix to the state route signs is as follows:
1. Restore the 1967 state outline as accurately as possible. Adding detail is not really important. The shape as it was is more important.
2. Use a 22" x 22" state outline with a 1" offset all the way around instead of 20" x 20". 23" x 23" was considered to make it closer to MUTCD standards, but this shape had problems with looking distorted: especially with the northwest corner of the state outline touching the corner radius thus why the extra offset is needed.
3. Use 10" text height in Series D font on ground-mounted route signs with 6" between the base of the text and the bottom of the sign. This aligns the text roughly with US route and interstate route signs. This vertically centers the text at 11". 11" text height vertically centered at 11.5" may be used for one digit state routes only.
4. Horizontal centering of text should be specific to each route number based on visual centering.
5. On 24" x 24" state route cutouts, add 1" to text height based on all the criteria above (e.g. 11" text height for 10" text height)
Sample route sign dimensions are as follows:
Georgia routes 1-9 may use 11" text in Series D font, but they are otherwise identical in dimensions to the next sign below.
Georgia routes 10-99 should use 10" text in Series D font. 11" may be used, but it would require the text to be more condensed and the font to change to Series C except in numbers that include "1".
Most 3 digit route signs cannot fit 11" text except those that end in "1", thus 10" text should be used on all three digit ground-mounted route signs. Series C is recommended except for route numbers ending in "1" where Series D use should be used.
10" text as a general rule is preferred, but there are exceptions where 11" text would be best. This primarily applies to signs where there is only one digit, two digits with one of the numbers "1", and three digits where two of three numbers are "1". However, the use of 11" text on more than one digit is generally discouraged, because when used in multiple assemblies, it would make route signs posted with 10" text look less important or distorted. For instance, picture if "115" is in 11 inch text while 52 is in 10 inch text. If 11" is desired for all two digit route signs, then the font used for each sign would have to be a mix of Series C and Series D fonts with most signs in Series C since Series D does not fit in most cases at 11". 11" text is generally discouraged on most 3 digit route signs since most route numbers 200 and above cannot properly fit text at that height.
Overhead cutout state route shapes using 24" base height should only be slightly different with text increased by 1" for each route number to accommodate more white space and to improve visibility on overhead signage. Examples of such are below:
Below is an example of how these signs would look in the field on a ground-mounted assembly. Also notice the arrangement of posts and z-bars, which will be discussed further down.
This mock-up on US 29 (Lawrenceville Hwy) approaching Jimmy Carter Boulevard demonstrates how the Georgia route signs should look. The state route sign shown has 10" text height, uses the 1967 design, has a 1" offset (22" x 22" state outline), and numbers generally vertically align along the base with interstate and US route signs. Also note how US route signs are supposed to look. The state name option on interstate signs appears to be phasing out, but it is still encouraged for use on ground mounted signs (Image modified from Google Street View).
U.S. ROUTE SIGNS
What gives with what passes for U.S. route signs lately? This is not a state-optional sign where the state makes up how it's supposed to look unless they specifically design it as such in a state supplement like California did. No such modification is found in any state supplement (Georgia does not have one), and most contractor installs are correct. It is the practice of maintenance crews using a 20" x 20" U.S. outline and smaller text that is the issue. The U.S. route sign should be designed exactly like the MUTCD with 12" text in Series D font vertically centered at 12.5" with 23" x 23" dimensions on the shield outline. Three digit U.S. routes are supposed to be in a 30" x 24" blank with 29" x 23" dimensions on the shield outline. No exceptions except for using Series C font where Series D does not always fit on 30" x 24" shields (e.g. routes that do not contain the number "1"). While California does have their own version, it is largely grandfathered and has very specific design requirements in their state supplement. Unless Georgia is looking to adopt the California sign in a more expensive cutout design, there is absolutely no reason to modify the U.S. route design, and the exception of using a 24" x 24" blank size for a state route does not apply to U.S. routes.
Sorry, GDOT, this isn't how the Standard Highway Signs manual says that these signs are supposed to look. How did you get a 2" offset? Why is the text 10" high in Series B and C?
This Google Street View edit shows how the above signs are supposed to look. Note the expanded size for US 129, 12" text in Series D font, and 0.5" offset on the symbol.
This example is the one design exception for U.S. route signs where there are no "1" digits meaning that the number will not properly fit the legend. In this case, Series C font was used instead of Series D.
Georgia should be applauded for keeping the state name in interstate shields. While it has not been in the MUTCD in years, it is a distinctive treatment that balances the look of the shield more. However, this practice seems to be falling out of favor. If it is used, however, it should be designed as a hybrid of the current design with the design of the M1-2 interstate business loop shield with no exceptions. That means 10" text on a 24" x 24" sign. If the state is going to remove the state name, then the design should probably be modified to 11" text, but maintaining the M1-1 design with 10" by simply moving the vertical centerline of the text up 0.5". Like with other route signs, though, text should not be shrunk or stretched to fit. Please do the numbers on the signs correctly. This has only been a recent problem given that interstate signs were designed correctly in the recent past.
OVERHEAD SPAN WIRE SIGNS
The use of span wire route assemblies really isn't working out, and I have had many people agree with me that this low-cost design of identifying routes based on turn lanes is not effective, is terribly confusing, and it looks ugly. Sure, it's cheaper, and this is yet another vestige of a GDOT operating for decades on a 7.5 cent gasoline tax. The gas tax is higher now, so it's time to vastly improve the overheads. The signs as they are laid out are extremely confusing: especially when multiple routes are shown and lane movements are not straightforward.
Even with two simple lane movements here, this is way too much information to parse in the method that it is displayed. Imagine this as a far more complex intersection with far more lane movements. The display of unnecessary state overlaps also does not help. Adding the control cities shown to actual overheads would also greatly improve the quick comprehension of the information shown.
This Google Street View capture shows the abject failure of overhead signs. It is unclear what lane you should be in, and the display of information makes it very difficult to tell what is what. It does not even follow state policy guidelines where each R3-5x arrow is supposed to contain the route and direction if it exists. That means that each left arrow should have a GA 5 Connector sign (which is already difficult enough to read) as well as a TO I-75 trailblazer. The through movement lacks any arrows. The right turn arrow is so far over, it's almost unnoticeable, and if this route were changed it would also need a route sign or trailblazer on top.
Does this seem just a little confusing?
This is the NUMBER ONE reason that these overhead do not work. The option lane sign makes it very unclear where 115 and 60 go. The addition of the control cities shows that a proper D15-1 overhead is much preferred to this disaster of an assembly.
Adding in that guide sign didn't help anything at all, and using text that small on an overhead is completely in violation of the MUTCD. Proper D15-1 overheads could display this information plus all control cities while completely eliminating ground-mounted signs in an area where this clearly not enough space for ground-mounted signs to be effective.
The examples above should make it clear that overhead span wire assemblies are not a solution for places where it is too difficult to post ground-mounted signs. They are too confusing, too hard to read, and they are not effective when the needs is there to provide additional information such as road names, control cities, or special route banners (e.g. SPUR, CONNECTOR) that are common in Georgia.
The MUTCD added a sign in recent years: D15-1. These signs are overhead signs showing lane assignments under a green guide sign. The drawings in the manual are basic showing only a route with cardinal direction/lane control arrow or a street name with a lane control arrow. However, combining these elements with trailblazers, road names and/or control cities, they can function like an overhead expressway guide sign although details are smaller. Will the replacement be costly? Yes, but the maintenance will be far less costly while comprehension for the public will be immeasurably improved. This will also allow GDOT to remove many ground-mounted signs, which are difficult to place properly in urban areas due to curb cuts, inadequate horizontal clearance along shoulders, and especially the presence of other regulatory and warning signs that create very limited space for these signs. These signs are already used in some places in North Carolina, and they are much more effective than the current approach.
D15-1 signs are a recent addition to the MUTCD and were added to the Standard Highway Signs manual in the 2012 supplement. These were pulled from the supplement.
For this to be most effective, though, the replacement of span wire signs with overheads should be included not only along state routes, but also along county roads where they junction state routes as well: primarily local roadways that are designated collector or arterial. Will GDOT have to maintain them on those approaches? Of course they will. It's not like the local agencies have been maintaining the span wire overheads they put up, either. It doesn't mean the state takes over the road, but they do take over a means for intersecting traffic in urban areas to clearly and safely figure out not only what lane to be in, but where the routes go in urban areas. These overheads should also routinely include traiblazers ("TO") to nearby routes, including interstates. Multiple examples are provided below.
The route signs as posted at present along with the guide signs at GA 515 where it junctions with GA 53 and 108 are confusing, misleading, missing information, and are very cluttered. The first sign is for southbound while the second sign is for northbound. Use of these overheads here (ignore the fact that first sign is too far from the lane movements), will greatly enhance understanding here: especially given that GA 53 joins GA 515 here and that each direction has at least two important destinations, and simple directional arrows may be used if R3-5 lane control arrows are not applicable here. Also note the addition of I-575, which is currently unsigned at the intersection despite starting only a couple miles south of this intersection. This displays how useful D15-1 signs are for this purpose.
Here, a complicated road name change at US 29 with locally-owned Jimmy Carter Blvd and Mountain Industrial Boulevard is simplified with these overheads. Lane movements are clearly defined, and trailblazers are included in the assembly given that, despite not being a state route, the roadway is functionally classified as principal arterial and does not only become a state route, but provides a primary connection to a major interstate. On the right side, US 78 is the nearest major route as part of the Stone Mountain Freeway, but GA 236 was omitted due to being a minor state route. Also note how this layout more clearly defines the roads as signed when an option lane is present similar to the new APL (arrow per lane) signs on the interstates. This is why such signage is justified along with the fact that locations for ground-mounted signs are very limited at this intersection.
The above shows why D15-1 overheads are also needed along local roads. This is along DeRenne Avenue, a principal arterial and former route of GA 21. The first image is approaching Harry Truman Parkway, a county-maintained freeway, but extra space was created on top to allow for a future state route sign. Note that these signs not only allowed for proper alignment of lane control arrows, but they also allowed for destinations to be included in a more effective manner than ground-mounted signs. The second sign is further east where the former route turns at Skidaway Road. Look at how much more effective the information is displayed this way including the necessary trailblazer, road names with directionals, and destination signage for Skidaway Road (minor arterial). Images modified from Google Street View.
FRAMING STRAPS AND Z-BARS USED TO MOUNT MULTIPLE ROUTES
GDOT is wasting a lot of money on unnecessary posts while making route signs look like a cluttered mess by not using enough framing straps or z-bars. It used to be more common to see these along state routes, but much of these were removed in the past 15 years, and the use of these should be returned with stronger and better layouts. A whole series of layouts were designed for this, and a couple of these are being shown here. Framing straps are used for some instances, but not typically in the way the state drawings recommend (e.g. using horizontal straps for sign elements with no vertical elements to hold it securely in place). Whole assemblies can be combined in all different ways, and the use of z-bars or u-channel post stubs could aid in the installation of larger, heavier assemblies where more sturdy hardware is needed. If post stability is an issue, then using pipe posts, heavier posts, mounting the posts in concrete, or adding soil plates could make assemblies like this work a lot better. The goalpost style pipe posts that Texas uses could help facilitate particular large route assemblies.
This image in Jasper shows the problem with not using z-bars and framing straps on mounting hardware. You have three posts here when two would likely suffice, the posts are all leaning different directions, and the information as it is displayed is confusing. Some means of stacking the information or spacing the information might also improve this.
This image in Tate shows how bad route sign assemblies look when skimping on signposts and framing straps/z-bars
Not shown in the state signing guidelines is a display of three 30" x 24" route signs in a combination assembly. Note the use of only three z-bars and three vertical straps reduces the number of posts from three two two AND creates a more stable assembly. The assembly shown above would be vastly improved with the drawing shown, and it could even include cardinal directions for GA 108 and 53 Business, and a separate M4-3 (BUSINESS) banner for GA 53 Business. When shoulder width is adequate and the slope is not too steep, this assembly should be typical. Information shown on the other side would typically be something like both directions of a route shown with a trailblazer, both directions of a route with a straight route in the center, or other combinations.
In the instance where space is restricted, the use of the NC standard is recommended. Other states like WV use this design as well, and it basically stacks the top route sign in a cheer leading squad fashion. For this to work as shown, however, something stronger than framing straps would be needed including u-channel post stubs and/or z-bars. It is not recommended to use a single post unless it is a very strong post inbedded in concrete.
UNNECESSARY ROUTE INFORMATION
UNNECESSARY ROUTE INFORMATION
It has been discussed here before, but the state overlaps along U.S. routes really are a problem. They are not only confusing, but they are a total waste of money that could be used for better overall route and guide signs. Having a state overlap of a U.S. route not only is of absolutely no use to the general public, but it creates needless confusion that results in delayed response. Only four states have such a system, and of those Georgia is the only one that actually prominently posts the state overlaps. While completely doing away with them is the ideal goal, a start would be to begin to remove signage for them as much as possible.
These photos by Lou C. show the complete absurdity of having state overlaps. Not only does it clutter up the signage making it harder to comprehend, but duplication of route numbers sometimes results in the state and U.S. routes coming together in a terrible fashion. These signs as shown are in Brunswick where U.S. 25, GA 25, GA 25 Connector, and GA 25 Spur all come together, except that GA 25 is the state counterpart of US 17, NOT U.S. 25. Other examples include the crossings or close proximity of U.S. 17, 23, and 27 with GA 17, 23, and 27 as well as the close paralleling of I-85 and GA 85.
As the image above shows, using 2" text inside the route to denote if the route is a Business, Loop, Spur, Connector, or Alternate is NOT an acceptable practice. It is difficult to read, and it is not visible from any distance. As part of improving route sign and route assemblies, placing the banner separate per the MUTCD should be standard practice. A couple GDOT districts do this, but most do not, and most contractor-installed signs do not as well. Installing route assemblies with framing straps and z-bars when multiple routes are shown will make it easier to install balanced route assemblies with bannered routes.
This photo from 2005 shows a route assembly in Manchester where the "SPUR" banner is separate above the route sign. Here, framing straps were used allowing the assembly to look balanced (although the straps should have included the bottom arrows as well). This should be standard practice statewide, including in contractor installs.
ONE-PIECE ROUTE ASSEMBLIES
With the problems already present with Georgia route signs, this seems like a dangerous topic, but it might help cut costs, reduce theft, and improve output if some signs are made as one-piece signs. This may even be done with plywood backing in rural areas as long as the signs are properly treated and assembled with adequate mounting hardware. One-piece assemblies would not be all-encompassing like a couple states use. They would be limited strictly to assemblies where:
- An M3-x or M4-x cardinal direction sign (or other 24" x 12" sign), M5-x or M6-x directional arrow signs, and the route sign itself is combined
- Signs measure 24" x 54" and 24" x 66" for two digits
- Signs measure 30" x 54" and 30" x 66" for three digits
The symbols would be placed on a solid black background with an optional 1.5" corner radius with an overlay on colored route signs while black and white signs could have a black overlay over white reflective sheeting. The design incorporates a 1" air space between each sign as if the route signs are being laid onto backing itself. The legend is centered vertically for a clean layout. Use of this method with horizontal assemblies (e.g. U.S/state reference overlaps) is not recommended nor is it recommended to combine a whole route assembly into, say, a 48" x 54" blank. This method of assembling route signs is very common in states like Maryland, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is rarely seen elsewhere.
This trailblazer for GA 51 is placed in a 24" x 54" blank. 2" offset is used between the directional information and the route sign, because the state outline is treated as a 24" x 24" sign despite the state outline being only 22" x 22". This design incorporates the 1967 state outline with 10" text height.
This assembly is used for rural areas where a nearby highway is considerable distance from the place the trailblazer is being installed, and it would most likely be used along county roads in rural areas. While the "X MILES" sign has no equivalent in the MUTCD, it is a permitted special sign and could be incorporated into a state-specific sign. The assembly above could also be used for situations where the information reads like e.g. "TO SOUTH Ga. 51 >" or "WEST SPUR 51 <" since the dimensions add up to 24" x 66". The 30" versions of both of these assemblies have more black space to the left and right of the directional information.
The use of framing straps on one-piece assemblies would also be far more economical since vertical elements are not required as long as the sign is bolted horizontally in two locations. This could also help cut down on post height since shorter posts could be used for a 24" x 54" height.
Two 24" x 54" one-piece assemblies side-by-side make up two signs on a directional route assembly. Image from Google Street View.
Two 24" x 54" one-piece assemblies side-by-side make up two signs on a directional route assembly. Image from Google Street View.
A trailblazer sign with a 30" wide route sign would have more black space, but would still do the job. Image from Google Street View.
THE OVERALL SITUATION
Georgia has been getting very lax about laying out both route and guide signs, and the presence of poorly assembled route signs, too much sign clutter via unnecessary route duplication, and poor signing methods make it worse. At the very least, our route signs in Georgia should look professional and follow the MUTCD as much as practical not just in usage, but per the Standard Highway Signs manual, which was used to make the sign examples shown here. We should also utilize these higher gas taxes to provide much better signage for Georgia drivers, and fixing both the design and layout flaws with these route signs coupled with improved urban overhead signage will go a long way to improving the driving experience and making roads in Georgia safer.