Monday, February 3, 2020

C'mon GDOT...we can do better with the route signs!

It probably hasn't been hard to notice that signs in Georgia are hard to read and do not look right just on first glance.  At the very least, the numerals are generally way too large for the size of the state outline used, and the text is condensed to the point where it is difficult to read.  The shape of the route sign itself is also a problem, and these issues will be discussed here considering that it is more involved than it appears.


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.

Even if you don't know why, the fact remains that GDOT has pretty much a non-existent policy on how route signs, especially state, are supposed to look.  Unlike most other states, there is no standard drawing for the Georgia route marker, and U.S. route signs are designed totally wrong along with other noted flaws on interstate signs.  Add in the fact that GDOT doesn't use wider 30" x 24" signs for three digits even though they're trying to squeeze in 12" text, and you can see why it's a problem.  Literally no other state condenses route signs the way Georgia does, and it looks sloppy and unprofessional.  Perhaps GDOT doesn't really care about standards or how it looks, but it is ugly, unprofessional, and hard to read.  If GDOT wants to deliberately make route signs incorrectly, then they should make that a written standard that they are to look exactly like that.  Otherwise, they are not in compliance with the MUTCD.


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.

INTERSTATE SIGNS

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

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. 

BANNER ISSUES

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.

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.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Better Way Around Dahlonega: Realigning Existing Roads For A New By-Pass

It should be pretty apparent to those reaching the end of GA 400 that the route options are not the best.  While GDOT did improve connectivity by placing Longbranch Road on the state highway system as part of GA 115 back in 2000, the problem remains that U.S. 19 takes a highly convoluted route through Dahlonega with many, many hairpin turns and confusing route changes.  This change came in 1981 when US 19 was moved east onto GA 400 making the route for U.S. 19 out of the way through Dahlonega while GA 400 ended basically nowhere.  Traffic heading to or from Blairsville is forced to either drive far out of the way to reach 400 or take a collection of county roads that form a more direct route.  The problem with these county roads is that it takes six turns to follow that route, and there are no signs in place to guide travelers on which way to go on those turns.  Obviously GPS has made that easier, but some changes need to be made to make this route legitimate, which will of course require new construction.


The pink route is the existing collection of collector roads that make up the proposed route.  The light blue lines indicate the road improvements necessary to make it useful as a route.

The described unofficial by-pass follows the following series of roads: Long Branch Extension, Copper Mines Road, Cavender Creek Road, Town Creek Church Road, Frogtown Road, and Damascus Church Road, all in Lumpkin County.  It essentially cuts off from US 19 near Turners Corner, relieving drivers of many hairpin turns on US 19 north of Dahlonega and then transitions into GA 115 at Long Branch Road.  Long Branch Extension is actually part of Longbranch Road, and it was built in the late 1980's to realign Copper Mines Road to connect to GA 400.

It is obvious that at some point in the past that some effort was made to connect the roads to create a by-pass.  As recently as a decade ago, a new connection that would eliminate two turns was proposed between Cavender Creek Road and Frogtown Road, Longbranch Road Extension was built, and Frogtown Road was realigned south of Cavender Creek Road.  It seems that since the 90's, any further efforts to improve this route have been aborted.  It is unsurprising considering that a proposal in the 1970's to extend GA 400 all the way to Neels Gap failed, and I'm sure opposition to the project in such a pristine area was a factor.  Another post will deal with this issue in the future where I describe how to realign US 19/129 through the area without disturbing the scenery and recreation around Neels Gap.

ROAD PROJECTS TO IMPROVE THE CONNECTION

Fortunately, a solution exists that is not terribly expensive to upgrade this road so that it may serve as a true by-pass route east of Dahlonega.  This includes a shorter, cheaper realignment than the one originally proposed and two intersection realignments that will at least cut down on the number of turns in the interim until further upgrades can be made.  The projects are as follows:

1. A new connector extending from Copper Mines Road to Town Creek Church Road.  It would begin south of Cavender Creek Road and tie into Town Creek Church Road north of the sharp curve south of the Chestatee River bridge.  This is proposed as a cheaper alternative to the proposed route extending from Frogtown Road to Cavender Creek Road, and it would extend for approximately 1.29 miles.


2. A realignment of the intersection of Frogtown Road and Town Creek Church Road to make the primary movement from Town Creek Church Road south to Frogtown Road north.  This would not only correct the primary movement, but would better align the roadways with their functional classification.


3. A realignment of the intersection of Frogtown Road and Damascus Church Road to make the primary movement from Damascus Church Road west to Frogtown Road south.  This includes an approximately 1/2 mile long relocation of Damascus Church Road further south.  Note that the decision to build this particular project will depend on the option chosen long-term whether to connect Frogtown Road to U.S. 129 or to upgrade Damascus Church Road to U.S. 19.


4. Restriping the intersection of Frogtown Road and Lewis School Road to remove turns onto Frogtown Road.  The intersection as configured makes this upgrade possible at minimal cost.


Currently Frogtown Road intersects at an acute angle into Lewis School Road (on the right).  This project restripes the road so that traffic for Lewis School Road must turn instead.

Longer term projects are as follows:

1. Improve the connection between Damascus Church Road at US 19.  Both projects would involve two lane improvements.  One is longer, but the other requires a new bridge over Chestatee River.  This involves one of two options:

  • Realign Damascus Church Road onto a new roadway south of the current road between U.S. 19 and Frogtown Road.  This is an operational improvement that creates a safer road and intersection with U.S. 19.  It would be located on the opposite side of the ridge that Damascus Church currently follows.  If this option is chosen, U.S. 19 would need to be realigned between Damascus Church Road and U.S. 129 to eliminate sharp curves.
  • Extend Frogtown Road north to merge into U.S. 129 at Turners Corner.  This would most likely end in a roundabout with U.S. 129 just south of the current intersection with U.S. 19

New roadway option (approximately 2.49 miles)


Existing road realignment (0.9 miles of new construction) and U.S. 19/GA 9 relocation (0.24 miles)


2. Realign Copper Mines Road between Longbranch Road Extension and Cavender Creek Road to eliminate sharp curves

4. Four lane GA 115 from GA 52 to GA 60 as an extension of GA 400.

5. Construct passing lanes on portions of the new state route between GA 52/115 and US 19/GA 9.

It is worth noting that all of these projects are considered two lane road improvements.  They would not be part of GA 400, and they would not be built in lieu of the proposed plan by White County to extend GA 400 to Cleveland.  They would simply tie into the proposed route to create a suitable alternative for through traffic on U.S. 19 to avoid Cleveland and Dahlonega using a streamlined version of the roads that are already there.

NEW STATE AND US ROUTES

When completed, US 19 should be shifted from the current route through Dahlonega onto the new highway with the overlapping state designation as GA 249.  GA 249 was chosen due to its history in the area on what is now GA 60 (it was changed in the 1950's).  The current US 19 through Dahlonega would be reclassified as US 19 Alt.  US 19 Business would be changed to GA 9 Business only if not removed entirely from the state system.  If there is a vested interest in keeping mainline US 19 on the current route, then the new route would be designated U.S. 19 Alt instead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dangerous Intersections: GA 5/515 at Antioch Church Road and County Road 331

When GA 515 was built as Corridor A in the 1980's, it was not built with any real intention of upgrading to future freeway.  While a grade separation with Old GA 5/GA 136 was done, the state created a short unnamed connector road (C.R. 331) as the link between GA 515 and Old GA 5/GA 136 while decommissioning the temporary state route of GA 5 on Antioch Church Road in 1986.  The resulting change promoted this road into to a defacto state highway connector complete with state-issued signage.

The problem with this design of using a T-intersection at C.R. 331 was not apparent until speeds increased along with traffic volumes.  Many truckers also use this turn, raising the hazard as large trucks turn left in front of traffic at speeds of 65+ with no signal.  While turn lanes were extended, the 65 MPH speed limit and unprotected turn without signals is a serious problem.  It is disappointing that GDOT has overlooked this while proposing the construction of a roundabout where the connector road meets GA 136.  It feels like a solution looking for a problem, and this roundabout project needs to be canceled in order to do something much better that will truly fix the problem

THE BETTER SOLUTION

The better solution is to make the construction of a proper interchange a priority: the first of many that need to be constructed along GA 515 between the end of I-575 and Ellijay over the next 20 years.  

The Interim Solution

In the interim, left turns should be removed along GA 515 by removing the left turn lanes at both Antioch Church Road and at C.R. 331.  This means that through traffic going to or from northbound GA 515 will need to use Antioch Church Road, traffic going to or from southbound GA 515 will need to use C.R. 331, and Antioch Church Road west of GA 515 will not be accessible from or to northbound GA 515 or the eastern side of Antioch Church Road.  This should include changes to guide and route signs to reflect this, including U-turn signage for traffic from Antioch Church Road to Talking Rock.  This project would be of minimal cost and could be completed within six months.

The Long-Term Solution

The long-term solution involves the removal of the at-grade intersections at Antioch Church Road and CR 331 entirely.  In this plan, one of two options may be considered:

  1. Convert CR 331 into ramps exiting and entering SB GA 515 while converting Antioch Church Road into a partial diamond interchange with an underpass with ramps only from and to NB GA 515.
  2. Construct a full diamond interchange at Antioch Road and GA 515 with improvements to Antioch Church Road up to GA 136.  This will include the removal of CR 331 along with its intersections at GA 136 and 515.

Option 1 reconfigures C.R. 331 into ramps to and from SB GA 515, constructs an overpass for Antioch Church Road over GA 515, and adds ramps to and from NB GA 515 for Antioch Church Road.  It attempts to utilize as little ROW as possible keeping what is technically the current configuration. 


Option 2 removes C.R. 331 entirely once a fully diamond interchange is constructed at Antioch Church Road.  This plan rebuilds the short connector between GA 136 and GA 515 partially on new location, and it potentially ties into a new Talking Rock By-Pass option.  Note the lack of development around the proposed interchange.  This also configures GA 136 into Antioch Church Road as a primary movement for an eventual relocation along that road.

Of these two options, the latter is definitely a preferred option.  Space is limited to build an interchange on option 1, and bridge expansions will likely be required for ramps including a new bridge over Talking Rock Creek.  This option also improves the gateway into Talking Rock with a full interchange improving access to the city.  Either a signal or roundabout should be installed at the junction with GA 136, and this project should also include an eastward extension onto a Talking Rock By-Pass that joins GA 136 just north of downtown.  In addition, creating a primary movement onto Antioch Church Road can be worked into an eventual relocation of GA 136 onto Antioch Church Road that provides a more direct route than the current route that utilizes part of Old GA 5.

THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

Development is very light at these two intersections making it very easy to commit to this project.  APD corridor funds will also help cover the cost of reconstructing the intersections into proper interchanges.  However, this intersection should not be handled alone.  Work should commence to begin removing at-grades at other major intersections while obtaining right-of-way to build frontage and connector roads to remove all other crossovers.  Along with this intersection, interchanges should definitely be constructed at GA 108/53, GA 53/53 Business, and GA 372.  All of this work should be done with the intent of extending I-575 north of its present terminus even if that is decades away.  

Friday, June 1, 2018

Georgia Guide Signs Are Terrible: Why And What Needs To Be Done

Anybody who has attempted to use guide signs to navigate Georgia has probably had a hard time doing it.  It should be pretty obvious to them that GDOT has a pretty bad policy when it comes to guide signs.  Not only do the state planning documents have nothing specific about how to make them correctly, but so many things are wrong with them that they almost serve no purpose.  Furthermore, Georgia has lately been hawking the GPS excuse to make sure that as few guide signs are posted as possible.  The thing is, the state has not maintained them well for years: long before GPS was available to the public.  Add to that the fact that the mileage cap has left holes in functional routes that neither GDOT nor the counties/cities have been willing to sign properly.  While GDOT needs to come up with a strategy to fix and install local road guide signs, first the physician must be healed.


Sloppy installations have been pandemic in Georgia for the past 20 years.

THE NUMEROUS ISSUES WITH GEORGIA'S GUIDE SIGNS

Here are some of the major problems with the guide signs on state highways in Georgia that must be fixed:
  1. Outdated, inconsistent, and insufficient information
  2. Design issues (fonts, margins, text height)
  3. Sign clutter
  4. Route marker design and placement issues
  5. Poor reinforcement on guide sign structures
  6. Contractor standards do not match maintenance standards
  7. Too much route information leading to excess costs and public confusion
  8. Destinations for locations off-system are insufficient or poorly executed
  9. Guide signage is for state routes only, not functional routes
  10. Substandard and inadequate overhead signage
  11. Expressway Signage Problems
  12. GPS Deceit
Outdated, Inconsistent, and Insufficient Information

With few exceptions, it is pretty obvious that most guide signs posted across the state had their traffic engineering done in the 1970's or 1980's.  While a few changes have happened now and then, most signs are replaced in-kind without any updates.  Destinations that are no longer relevant show up on guide signs and/or destinations are not changed when routes are moved.  New communities and cities that have popped up are not addressed in signage, and holes in destinations occur where a destination is signed at some point back, but it is not indicated in turns further down.

Some examples of this include:
  • Posting of irrelevant unincorporated communities over legitimate control cities as destinations when the latter is present
    • This is typically a problem where a route was moved or extended, but guide signage was not updated to reflect this
    • This was the situation on GA 176 up until it was decommissioned with Macland and Lost Mountain used as destinations instead of Powder Springs and Acworth
  • New communities and cities that have popped up are not addressed in signage
    • GDOT has been very slow to post guide signage for Milton, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, and other new cities across the state: especially along surface state routes
  • Destinations not changed when routes are moved
    • GA 115 still gives mileage to Murrayville despite the fact that GA 115 no longer goes to Murrayville, and guide signs directing traffic to Murrayville have been removed.  This would still be relevant if the latter was not the case
    • GA 53 was moved out of Downtown Jasper (now GA 53 Business) and instead follows GA 108 and 515, but destinations on guide signs do not reflect this change such as posting Fairmount from GA 53 westbound at GA 515 or Dawsonville/Gainesville from GA 515.
    • GA 136 still gives Jasper as a destination despite the fact that no signage is posted where Old GA 108 forks off to Jasper.  
      • Either guide signs should be posted at the intersection that include Jasper or the destination in Dawson County needs to be changed to Talking Rock.
  • Holes in destinations occur where a destination is signed at some point back, but it is not indicated at turns further down
    • Relevant to the conditions described above
    • This is especially true when a destination requires following an interstate
      • In these cases only the control cities for the interstates are shown even if traffic for another route has to follow the interstate (e.g. U.S. 278 between Lithonia and Covington, I-575 between Canton and Marietta)
      • Cases like this would have signs like "Conyers/Covington USE I-20 EAST"

GA 115 was moved to Longbranch Road in 2000, but this distance sign persists giving distance to Murrayville.  If directional signs were posted for Murrayville at the junction with Old Dahlonega Road (Old GA 115), this would be okay.  However, either the signage at Old Dahlonega Road needs to be added, or "Murrayville 10" should probably be replaced with "Cumming 28".  This is one of many examples of outdated signage that persists on Georgia highways.


Using signs like this one above can help cover destination gaps that involve state routes that follow interstates such as GA 5, U.S. 23, U.S. 278, etc.
  
In addition, missing information is a real problem.  A destination is signed at one intersection, but an additional turn required to reach that destination is not.  If you see a sign at the junction of GA 138 and 212 for McDonough, but there is no guide sign where GA 138 joins 155 where an additional turn is required for McDonough, how would you know without GPS?  Signage is routinely not consistent from the first signed instance to the destination.

Design Issues

Georgia has cheaped out for years when it comes to guide signs.  They have had a policy since immemorial that all information must fit into a sign only 48" wide.  That's great, but most cities and towns do not have legends only 5-6 letters long.  Before modern cad sign drawing, this meant cramming the legend together with very narrow kerning while having no margins at all along the edges or between the legend and arrows.  Nowadays, it has made things far worse with the legends condensed to where they are virtually unreadable.  It also means quite a few signs are in Series B...something that is far more difficult to read with mixed case fonts than with all-upper case.  While using Series C is also a cheat, it is far less problematic than cramming a long legend into a small sign with skinny letters.


Even a fool can see that this sign is incorrectly designed.  For one, the punctuation is not necessary, and the legend is crammed into text even skinnier than Series B.  To achieve this either the legend has to be condensed to 91% or the text shrunk to fit (the latter was done).  The height of the sign is also 24" instead of 30", although that remains a common practice in many states with 6" text on signs.


When U.S. 19/129 was moved to the Glenn Gooch By-Pass in Blairsville, this awful signage replaced it.  The arrow placement is completely wrong, destinations are in the wrong order, text is shrunk to fit, margins are wrong, arrows are cut off, the sign height is wrong, and the use of "Brasstown Bald" as a control city is completely wrong (it should be on a separate brown sign).  Absolutely no effort or care is put into making sure the signs are legible and designed to MUTCD specs.  This is in no way compliant, and it should be promptly removed and replaced with TWO appropriate signs.  While this sign will be likely removed in the projected widening project, this is not an old sign.  Signs like this are still be installed all over the state cramming poorly laid out legends into 48" wide sign blanks.

Likewise, Georgia has always used 12" increments per legend with the smallest height 12".  The problem is, that no longer works without looking very crowded when used with mixed-case fonts, and especially lines.  The new MUTCD guide sign standards are very different.  They apply lines between each direction on a destination sign, and they require 18" for 1 line, 30" for 2 lines, and 42" meaning the 12" increments are preserved, but each sign is 6" taller.  For Georgia's sizes of 12", 24", and 36", the text height needs to be reduced to 5" for it to fit properly.  With mixed-case fonts, this includes tails on letters that make these heights look very cramped and harder to read, especially if the line is used.  

Guide signs are not supposed to be designed with a specific target width.  They are supposed to be designed based on the length of the legend.  That means that if a right arrow with Donalsonville is 61.5" wide when used with 6" text height in Series D font at normal kerning, and 6" spacing between the legend and arrow, then a 78" sign must be used.  Not 48", not squeezed into 72" (although an allowance can be made to use Series C font), and not a reduction in margins from 6".  That is how it is supposed to be made.  In some cases, reducing text height might be permissible (4-5" instead of 6"), but compromising the entire design of the sign is not. 


A properly designed "Donalsonville" guide sign with text kerned to 105% (for improved appearance; dimensions did not change).  This sign is 78" x 18".  It maintains a proper 6" gap between the text and the arrow and maintains a minimum 6" margin between legend and margins.


Here is the sign you are more likely to encounter.  This sign is 48" x 12" wide with 3" margins/spacing between legend and arrow.  Series C was condensed by 26%.  The arrow is 6" x 6".  It would be difficult to read at any speed.


Of course, who needs the graphics when you have a real world example of long legends crammed into 48" blanks?  This is GA 285 eastbound at GA 39.  Not only is the legend horribly condensed to the point it is almost illegible, but the state park legend makes it worse.  Seminole State Park should be on a separate brown (preferably trapezoidal) sign.  As you can see, the sign in Blairsville was not an isolated incident.  (Image from Google Street View)

Arrowheads and margins are also a problem.  Arrows tend to have no stem on them at all when the legends or long making them harder to city, while margins tend to only be 1-3" from the sign edge when the MUTCD requirement is that the margins match the height of the text.  That means if the sign has 6" text, the margins are to be at least 6" in height.  Vertical spacing is often totally wonky, and the state has clearly not been making any efforts to redesign signs into larger signs.  Obviously, this approach saves money, but if it's wrong, it's not money saved: it's cutting corners.  

Sign Clutter

Despite the many design issues, Georgia did not used to have a problem with sign clutter on state routes like they do today.  Today, a whole bunch of specific items have been added that have enhanced the sign clutter problem: "Georgia Agritourism" signs, destination signage for colleges, resorts, and museums, added signs for parks, and then on top of that are the silly propaganda signs like "____ County is a Literate Community" or "Georgia Storm Ready".  We can hope that the local schools taught the kids to read or that tornado sirens were installed and working when they come ripping through the area, but it is otherwise redundant information.  At the very least, steps need to be taken to minimize or space out this sign clutter in such a way that the information is relevant without being excessive and does not distract from more important signs like D1-x destination signs, route signs, or signs directing traffic to state parks or other recreation areas.

Some of the worst offenders for sign clutter include the intersections along State Route 515.  Due to tourism, a whole lot of clutter has been added that has created so much excessive signage at intersections like SR 108, SR 52, and U.S. 19/129 that signage is almost worthless.  Information like this needs to be combined in a way to minimize this or outright eliminated.  If GPS really lives up to its hype, you probably do not even need to know how to get to a college, museum, or especially some tourist-oriented sight.  Even if each sign is paid for by the tourist destination, it does not mean they should be done the way it is shown.  


This is a MESS along GA 515 at the GA 52 connector road in Ellijay.  There are several instances there where signs need to be grouped to make them easier to read and remove clutter (such as the state park signs in the background), but foremost these signs in the front need to be combined as shown below:


This is not meant to be an accurate representation of sign order.  It is only meant to show what the signs visible in the first image should look like.  Note the more professional and far less cluttered appearance.  The state park signs are stacked with a wider font and larger text while the "Agritourism" sign is redesigned with separate panels so that instead of using the logo with each sign, there is one header sign used with the plaques for each tourist destination interchangeable.  Green is also changed to blue since green is incorrect.  Blue denotes businesses, which these are.  Both images from Google Street View.

Nothing quite compares to the Georgia Agritourism signs for sign clutter.  A whole sign with the logo has to be posted for each destination meaning that as much as 3-4 signs in a row are posted for some sponsored local tourist destination.  While they are independently funded, the application is atrocious.  If used, these signs should be anything but green (blue or brown should be the background color), and the whole banner for "Georgia Agritourism" should be ONE sign (preferably 72" x 24") that then has space underneath for 1-4 separate 72" x 12" plaques that can be interchanged as needed.  That means if you have two farms on the same road advertising and one closes to the public, you just take the plaque off.  It should be very standardized, easy to read, and should take up as little valuable shoulder space compared with other signs.  Make some "Georgia Agritourism" signs in advance then include in the cost for each sponsored sign enough to make up for the overall assembly.

Route Marker Design and Placement Issues

Georgia has never been exact when it comes to designing route markers to MUTCD specifications, but it has clearly gotten worse over the years.  Assemblies at state route junctions used to be very uniform with through movements posted and signs positioned correctly.  Sign assemblies were sturdy and orderly, and the route signs themselves looked professional and consistent.  Nowadays, not a single route sign is correct.  Here are the issues:
  • Interstate route design
Interstate signs did not used to be an issue for Georgia, and it was commended that they used the state name in installs even though this is no longer an MUTCD standard.  However, the fonts and spacing in the past decade have gotten way worse suggesting that application of the standard highway signs manual is getting sloppy.  Interstate signs can easily be designed with the state name by combining the specifications for the M1-1 interstate sign with the M1-2 interstate business loop sign to add the state name, but text should still be the same height.  
  • U.S. route design
This is one area that has turned disgraceful.  The state has established a 1.5" to 2" offset on the U.S. route shields as well as using 24" signs for three digits when 30" is required.  Series B and condensed fonts are also often used on these signs making them particularly garish and absolutely incorrect.  
  • State route design
Georgia has never had an "official" design for the state route shield, although a general state shape was used from about 1967-1997 that used an approximate shape of the state with an offset of 2" making the state shape 22" square.  This fit text that was at maximum 10" for 1-2 digits and 7"-8" for three digits depending on the number and font used.  It did not, however, match with contractor installs that took the same shape and applied it with an 0.75"-1" offset and used 10-12" text for all signs. 

Today, however, the state shape recommended to contractors is too accurate in that it does not properly fit route numbers, yet no drawings exist to compensate for that.  While it does more accurately represent the state shape, distortion of the state shape is needed to fit proper specification numbers.  So many different variations are used of the state shape, it is apparent that there is no actual standard at all!  The result are garish and often hard to read state route signs: especially since 30" wide signs aren't used for three digits.  Fonts are often condensed, and they are trying to slam 10" text into a sign that is still 22" square!  This desperately needs to be fixed.


The classic/older style of Georgia route signs with the shape and 2" offset dating to 1967.  The text was too small, but the appearance was still professional with text consistently reduced in height as needed to fit the legend.


A bad redesign coupled with no correction of the offset led to horrible condensed signs like this one.  Starting in the 1990's, GDOT attempted to have 10" text slammed into a 20" x 20" state shape.

The recommended solution is a standard drawing for the route sign: preferably something identical or very close to the 1967 design using a 1" offset (not 2") for the state shape and requiring that the 30" x 24" size is used for more than two digits.  Font size should also be 10" and NOT 12" since 12" doesn't actually fit properly, but 10" does.  Doing this would create a professional and consistently legible Georgia route sign.


Compare the improved appearance of these signs.  The former has 10" text positioned 6.5" above the base, a 1" offset so that the state shape is 22", and it uses the 1967 shape.  The 1967 shape is ideal, because its more crude distortion of the state shape is better designed to fit route numbers at normal kerning than the updated versions.  The latter is the same except that the state shape is stretched along the horizontal parts to fit three digits.  The state shape measures 28" x 22" in a 30" x 24" sign.
  • Banner route issues

Another issue is the placement of the special auxiliary (bannered) route INSIDE the route marker.  These are routinely in 2" text, and they are difficult to read at any speed.  While some GDOT districts do use the separate banners, the practice of placing banners such as "BUSINESS", "SPUR" and "CONNECTOR" in small text inside route signs needs to end.  If GDOT used proper 30" x 24" signs for 3-4 digit routes, they could replace the banner with a letter for ALT (A), CONNECTOR (C or Y), LOOP (L), SPUR (S) while keeping separate banners for BUSINESS and BY-PASS.  Preferably, separate banners should be used in all cases since there is a degree of confusion as to what the letters mean: especially when "A" doesn't always mean "ALT" and "S" can be mistaken for "SOUTH".



Bad state route design is on full display here.  The first sign is an "official" install with heavily condensed text, a difficult to read banner in 2" text, and a state shape that is too accurate on the eastern edge to properly fit the digits.  The second is a contractor install for the same route.  Note the heavily distorted state appearance, because Georgia will not develop standard drawings for this sign that creates an "official" state shape.  


For awhile, Georgia was making U.S. signs almost correctly.  Apparently as a way to match the thick offset on the state route markers, the U.S. route signs were incorrectly redesigned with a wider offset that appears to be somewhere between 1-2".  This needs to end.  Unless Georgia adopts California's cutout U.S. route design, there is no reason that they cannot design the correct M1-4 design with text in Series D with 12" text in Series D and the 1/2" offset of the U.S. shape.

Poor Reinforcement on Guide Sign Structures

GDOT may feel that they are saving money by not purchasing any framing straps or z-bars on guide signs, but they are creating a serious roadside hazard: especially in areas where pedestrians might be present.  With the uptick of strong windstorms as well as Georgia's practice of posting guide signs on a single post, it is unacceptable that any guide sign 48" or more not have these stabilizing bars whether it is an old u-channel post, square post, perforated framing straps, or preferably z-bars.  While their standards do say this, they are NOT followed except when a contractor install is being used.  Maintenance rarely ever uses these materials, although some districts actually do add these materials to highway guide signs.  Framing straps used on route signs are also inadequate with no vertical members used meaning signs get knocked out of place more often.


Poor reinforcement leads to signs breaking loose and flipping over: especially with larger, heavier signs with a greater wind load such as D1-x and D2-x guide signs.  If this occurs around pedestrians or traffic, it could lead to serious injuries and, of course, lawsuits.

With the advent of perforated framing straps that allow the sign not to be bolted directly to the post, any new guide sign installs should include these framing straps while those signs 72" or larger should trade up to the sturdier z-bars that keep the sign straight and from moving while keeping the sign itself bolted to something besides the post itself.  In addition, these guide signs should have more holes.  A 48" x 36" sign supported by two bolts is NOT sturdy.  However, if that same 48" x 36" sign had two 48" perforated framing straps bolted to the post with the sign itself bolted to the straps with at least four bolts or screws, it is less likely to break a bolt and come loose and more likely to maintain its intended position.  When a sign is bolted directly to the signpost, it puts strain on the bolt while the sign itself cannot be screwed tightly enough without damaging the sign itself.  This is why this practice needs to end.  In fact, it might be worth considering to use framing straps for most signs for the same reason since quite a few diamond warning signs are found upside down with the top bolt broken off.  New York State has long followed this practice as well as Florida.


This sign assembly in Virginia is supported by two z-bars.  A couple route signs with short posts are then bolted to the back of the z-bars to allow route and D2-x distance signage to be combined.  While the practice of putting route signs over guide signs like this should not be routine, there are many instances where this makes sense when space is restricted such as T-intersections in mountainous terrain or in congested areas with few locations to place signs.

Furthermore, a heavy use of z-bars and framing straps is a way that GDOT could do more with less.  Quite a lot can be stacked onto 1-2 posts with z-bars, and combination assemblies would be sturdier using them.  In addition, very large guide signs can be pieced together with z-bars meaning, for instance, if an 84" x 30" sign is needed, it can be pieced together as two 30" x 30" pieces and one 24" x 30" wide piece: the same size sheet metal used for two curve warning signs and one speed limit sign.  This means that guide signs could reasonably be made from scraps while the public would not know the difference.



Here are a couple examples of how GDOT could put together signs with z-bars or perforated framing straps.  Note that in both proposed designs that the sign itself is not bolted to the main posts: only the z-bars or framing straps are.  Additional mounting holes on the 60" guide sign will also provide greater support and stability.

GDOT Is Not Following Its Own Standards and Has A Different Standard For Contractors

Something is very wrong when a contractor specifies signs a certain way only for maintenance to come back and use something smaller or inferior when the sign wears out.  If a contractor installs a 78" x 42" guide sign with z-bars, and it is replaced with a 48" x 36" guide sign with no z-bars, this is plain wrong.  GDOT should have clearly written standards for the contractors then follow those same standards themselves.  There should be little to no noticeable difference between sign installations: at least done as-is.  Likewise, there are serious quality control issues with contractor installs in that there seems to be no inspection procedure to correct errors and reject faulty signs.  Georgia used to be very exacting about contractor-made signs, but has gotten very lax in the past 15-20 years.

The same issue exists with sign assemblies that are mounted on framing straps without vertical elements.  The purpose of framing straps is to FRAME the signs so that they hold in place.  The signs themselves should not be bolted to moving parts at all: they should be on a vertical strap that is, itself, bolted to the horizontal straps.  The state's own manual shows it this way.  This method is also needed to assure that signs are aligned properly so that banners are horizontally centered with route signs.


While this is an older photo, it is a classic example of improperly applied framing straps.  The banners on top are not centered over the route signs while the arrows are not aligned underneath due to the horizontal straps supporting the signs at different lengths.  Also note the assembly is crooked.  If the signs were all bolted to vertical members separate from the horizontal members, this would be less of an issue.  The use of z-bars for horizontal parts instead of framing straps might also help.


This fictional assembly addresses this problem.  Included here are two 54" vertical straps bolted onto three 36" horizontal straps.  The 36" length is chosen universally to allow adjustment to any width of route signs so that 30" wide markers can be used without compromising the assembly.  Note how the signs are mounted about 6" above the post itself, route signs are lined up horizontally, and the whole assembly appears more balanced.  (Image from Google Street View).


Notice the assembly above compared to the diagram immediately above.  It is designed exactly to the specifications shown here with adjustments made for the fact that one route marker is 24" wide and one 30" wide.  A 1" gap is shown between each sign.

Too Much Route Information Leading to Excess Costs and Public Confusion

The garish condition of the route sign assemblies can partially be attributed to cutting corners to post so many routes.  Not only should the state overlaps of U.S. route be removed, but many other useless overlaps should go such as GA 53/108 in Pickens County, GA 15/78 in Treutlen County, GA 70/154 in Fulton County, GA 2/52 in Gilmer County, and the list goes on.  Georgia needs to follow the K.I.S.S. principle, and get rid of as many overlaps as possible.  This includes renumbering orphaned stretches of state highway, or (gasp) duplicating routes.  Arkansas typically has multiple disconnected sections of the same route number.  Rather than post an overlap just for continuity if two sections of a route were unrelated, just create internal section numbers.  Can you imagine if GA 177, the last remaining disconnected highway, were posted along other routes just to join the two parts?


Here is an example of a highway with way too much information.  In truth, ONLY U.S. 23 and U.S. 441 should be displayed or assigned to these routes.  GA 15 is a state overlap placeholder for U.S. 441 in the area and GA 365 is an unnecessary overlap that has taken precedence over U.S. 23.  The result is massive confusion over which highway carries what number.  Hint: giving "U.S. 23" as the route number will not lead a dispatcher to this road.

A much better strategy is needed to take care of gaps and overlaps.  For instance, instead of GA 70 and 154's convoluted route in South Fulton County, trailblazers should simply be installed (e.g. TO SOUTH/NORTH 70/154) instead of sending drivers on a needless wild goose chase just to avoid a decommissioned section.  If, for instance, that entire section of 154 is taken off-system, the independent portion in Coweta County should either get a whole new route number (e.g. GA 387) or just exist as a disconnected portion of the route (e.g. GA 154, Section 2).  The same goes for GA 2 between Cisco and Young Harris, GA 78 between Soperton and Wadley, and GA 108 between Tate and GA 515.  The general rule of thumb is that, if at all possible, as few routes as possible should be on the same stretch of highway, and none should be there as a state number placeholder for a U.S. route.


GA 154 is mostly riding sidesaddle with other routes since it was relocated several times over the past 30 years.

Fixing this issue will mean that better sign installs can be used.  Instead of the cheap jobs that GDOT is doing where they place M3-x directional banners over a single route sign and M6-4 double arrow, the assembly can be done correctly with all signs shown, including the framing straps needed to properly support them.


Aside from that horrific route sign, this is actually better than most in that they included two M6-1 signs instead of a single M6-4 double arrow under the route sign.  However, at the time this was posted there were three routes along this road meaning that this unneccessary overlap took precedence over U.S. 76, which should have been posted here.

Destinations For Locations Off-System Are Insufficient Or Poorly Executed

The posting of guide signs on county roads and city streets is a slightly different topic discussed in the next section, but there are cases where it makes sense to guide traffic off-system in cases where:

  1. The shortest and best route involves forking onto a local road or
  2. A destination is off-system such as an incorporated town or state park 

Unfortunately, the signage for this purpose is rare, and becoming even more rare than it used to be.  It was never consistent to start with, but in recent years guidance to off-system destinations is vanishing, and GDOT is increasingly forcing the local agencies involved to fund this signage: especially for any government agencies or institutions that are not related to GDOT.  Why is this so?  They are not capable of planning these signs, and GDOT has the resources available to do it.  They just do not WANT to do it.


What's NOT there: GA 166 westbound approaching Chapel Hill Road.  While a trailblazer is shown for I-20, this is also a minor arterial road connecting directly from a major state route to Douglasville.  Why is it not signed that way?  Chapel Hill Road is a state highway-quality county road, and this is just one of many examples of where signs like this are needed.

An example of the shortest and best route is where a federal-aid eligible county road junctions with a state road, and following that road cuts off significant time and distance vs. using the state route.  The only issue with this is that, although this may be true, the road may have issues that need addressing.  If trucks are restricted, the truck restrictions need to be posted along with the guide signs.  If the road is unpaved or extremely substandard, then obviously that road is not the shortest and best route.  If the road is functionally local, such instances of posting guide signs like this are rare and should involve either an established truck route or a functional classification mismatch meaning only a short stretch like that is used.  Another issue is the presence of additional turns along that functional route.  Who will post and maintain that?  The next section will address that.


In Pennsylvania and Virginia, it is routine to have D1-x signs and route assemblies posted where a secondary highway junctions with a primary highway.  Why can't these be posted where major county routes junction with state routes in Georgia?

Another issue is where a destination is off-system.  If you have a town with over 4,000 residents such as Euharlee, guide signs should be posted to it both at the best local road junction and along every turn to reach that town.  The same goes for state parks or historic sites, which are often reached through off-system roads.  In Georgia, not everything can be efficiently reached on a state route.  The state highway system is becoming increasingly archaic, and it is not functionally lining up with the shortest and best routes in many cases: especially in the Atlanta area and parts of North Georgia.  Since Georgia lacks a sizeable farm-to-market system that gives every town and community reasonable access to the state highway system, this means that the guide signs that are in place are not only substandard, but not entirely effective.

Guide Signage is for State Routes Only, Not Functional Routes

What is a functional route?  A functional route is the roadway as it is determined by functional classification instead of ownership.  Functional classification consists of six basic categories with subcategories for urban and rural.  They include interstate, freeways/expressways, arterials, collectors, and local.  Non-local roads in the state consist of the following categories and ratios:

  • 31% of the road system in Georgia is non-local (interstates, freeways, arterials, collectors)
  • 23% of the road system consists of federal-aid eligible roads, excluding urban collectors
  • 3% of the local road network consists of minor or principal arterials, the highest category below freeway, expressway, or interstate
  • 58% of roads are classified as interstate, freeway, arterial, or rural major collector are owned by local governments
  • Another 5% of the road network could be classified as "local connecting"
    • This means local roads that are not classified as either collector or arterial, but still serve as a connecting road in some category or serve as an access road to a significant public purpose such as a community, park, lake, or government facility.
    • They are usually built to the standards of federal-aid eligible roads
    • They often serve as a defacto detour when a roadway of higher functional classification is unpaved or closed to the public
  • GDOT is responsible for only 14.3% of the highway system (18,000 miles) with that ratio dropping as the mileage cap continues to phase out major collector roads on the state system


Guide signage installed at the intersection of Blue Ridge Highway (Old U.S. 76) and Skeenah Gap Road like this is an extreme rarity around the state.


This example applies the logic of functional routes to guide signage.  This is all that is needed along Mobile Road (a major collector route) approaching Madola Road (also major collector): a trailblazer to GA 5 along with guide signage to Epworth and Blue Ridge.  Before it would be a W2-2 sign with a W16-8 for Madola Road.  The road ahead is functionally local, and it does not connect to anything shown here.


A typical proposed rural application where a major county road approaches a state highway junction.  This signage is proposed for Luthersville Road (a major collector) with GA 362 in Meriwether County.  Luthersville Road connects GA 85 near Gay to Luthersville where GA 54 picks up the rest of the route to Hogansville.  Shouldn't this have guide signs? (Image from Google Street View)

This means that there is a major imbalance between functional routes and ownership.  The state has far too little responsibility to spurn the installation and maintenance of guide signs along local roads.  At present, there are even several freeways maintained by the counties in Chatham, Cobb, and Gwinnett Counties.  GDOT has shown no interest in taking over these roads as well despite the fact that all are at least designated as principal arterial and constructed to levels adequate for state takeover.  Local governments have no special funds or assistance for this purpose, and none of these major local roads are even assigned a county highway number.  Aside from the state taking over 16.7% of the highway system, how can this problem be fixed?  This will be addressed in the section "Potential Solutions to Guide Sign Issues".

A Lack of Trailblazers

Sometimes it is not always clear on how to reach a route from another road.  The solution for that has always been posting "TO" (M4-5) signage over a route sign with an arrow to indicate the direction that must be traveled to reach that highway.  Even if nothing else is posted, this is often the most important sign that is needed: especially in cases where there are only a few access points such as an interstate or freeway/expressway.  This is something that routinely should be posted both on and off-system, and it should be used also at junction of minor state routes to guide traffic to the major route.  Sign assemblies that include these should also be designed so that if the highways are decommissioned, the trailblazer either replaces those signs or remains since it is already in place.  Often a trailblazer can be far more effective than posting a route sign itself, and in many cases a shorter state route such as a "SPUR" or "CONNECTOR" should instead be posted with appropriate trailblazers instead of posting the route itself. 


This edited image from Google Street View of Cove Road approaching Burnt Mountain Road (Old GA 108) in Jasper shows the types of trailblazers needed along functional routes.  Trailblazers more often than not should be posted on local roads, and more often than not posted BY GDOT, because counties and cities are generally not equipped for this purpose.  While most trailblazer assemblies would not be this elaborate or have this many signs, this information is often more important than guide signs that show cities and towns.  Heavily posted trailblazers can help combat distracted driving.  (Image from Google Street View)

Substandard and Inadequate Overhead Signage

Another issue of note that is very problematic is the style of overhead signage on span wires.  At the very least, it is hard to read and flimsy with way too much reliance on lane control signs to determine direction.  This is problematic, because option lanes make it difficult to post routes in that direction.  The whole purpose for overhead signage is that there is no room anywhere on the ground to post signs due to the presence of numerous obstacles such as buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and trees/shrubs.  These obstacles are routinely in the way of guide signs: especially in urban areas.

Using this cheap approach to signage is not really working.  While it has been used for decades, much of the time the signs are not lined up properly on the wires, and it turns into clutter quickly: especially when state overlaps are posted with U.S. routes.  In addition, the text height on these signs is not MUTCD compliant for overheads.  This is an issue where GDOT truly needs to heavily invest in replacing these span wires with full overheads on sign bridges.


This intersection of Holcomb Bridge Road (GA 140) and Alpharetta Hwy (GA 9/120) is a worst case scenario when it comes to span wires.  Overloaded with signs, it is hanging at a diagonal angle and is very confusing in that R3-5x signs are not placed below the route direction.  No other information such as road names or destinations is shown, and lane movements are not defined for the transition to GA 92.  It has been a typical practice since the 1970's, but it is ugly and needs to come to an end.  (Image from Google Street View)

Using sign bridges at intersections is not unheard of.  Many other states do it.  In fact, the most updated Standard Highway Signs manual has introduced a new series of signs just for that purpose: D15-1.  D15-1 signs combine the overhead lane control signs (R3-5, R3-5a, R3-6) with guide signs.  Even if instances exist where lane control cannot be used, a traditional overhead with just a right or left arrow should still suffice.  This is how GDOT should be handling intersections with overhead signage, and this includes signage like this along local roads.


The MUTCD recently added D15-1 signs, which place the lane control signs into guide signs.  While the sign examples could probably be wider here to better define lane movements, it is far easier to follow what is needed when everything is grouped together like this.  In addition, destinations could be added by doing it this way as well as the information regarding the name change.  Traffic on Holcomb Bridge Road/GA 140 eastbound who make no turns are suddenly on Crossville Road/GA 92.  If lane control signs are still desired, then these signs should have simple directional arrows underneath.  Of course, to install this, a sign bridge will need to replace the span wires.  (Modified image from Google Street View)

Expressway Signage Problems

GDOT has never had it all together with any guide signs, and design flaws have been caught by interested parties quite often with Georgia's interstate signs.  This was made worse by the state's deliberate insistence on using standards that are not MUTCD compliant, and are not consistent with other states such as keeping the sign panels all the same height, using Series C for around 20 years instead of Series E(M), narrow kerning on legends, etc.  

However, the issue is worse in regards to the county-maintained freeway system.  Gwinnett County's freeway signs are not at all MUTCD compliant, and they were installed that way new using smaller text and incorrect fonts (Series C/D instead of E(M)).  Signage in Chatham County was installed in the 90's and is deteriorating since the local government there lacks the resources to overhaul the signage.  At this rate, the only way it will be fixed is if the county managed to get the state to take over those roads.  However, it is not the only way to address this given an approach that will be discussed further.


Signage on eastbound Sugarloaf Parkway here appears to be only 60" x 24" with no exit arrows, text condensed to Series B, etc.  This was a FREEWAY, and if the funds were there to build the freeway the sign structures should have likewise been built correctly.  This road is maintained by Gwinnett County, but GDOT should have made sure that the signage structures were to MUTCD standards before approving funding to build it.

Another issue is signage on surface expressways.  What is posted is way too small.  6" text is acceptable for two-lane highways, but four lane divided expressways with a 65 MPH speed call for larger signs.  Signs along these roads should feature 8" text with signs scaled at heights of 24", 42", and 60" for 1, 2, and 3 lines, respectively.  Fonts should be in Series D or E with no kerning.  E(M) may be used, but Series E is preferred to reduce the halo effect.  Overhead sign gantries at major intersections should also be routine: especially in areas where a large number of guide signs are clustered along the shoulder.



Compare the existing signage for GA 515 approaching the Cherry Log turnoff with the proposed 8" signage.  The existing sign is on a 48" x 12" sign with 6" text, and is very hard to read at 65 MPH.  The replacement proposed here features 8" text in Series E spaced out at 105% with a 10" Type B Arrow.  This is how guide signage needs to be on surface expressways like this.  (Images from Google Street View).

Intersection Realignments

Not all intersections should just be fixed with guide signs.  In some cases, the whole intersection needs to be realigned to adjust it to align properly with the functional route.  This can be as simple as turning T-intersections into 90 degree turns to as complex as rebuilding the intersection so that a previous turn is replaced with a continuous roadway.  Most local road intersections were not built with functional classification in mind.  In this case, guide signage may be installed in the interim, but any locations that are discovered that include unnecessary intersections that slow traffic on a continuous route, they should be realigned or reconstructed.


The intersection of Frogtown Road and Lewis School road in Lumpkin County is an example of an operational change needed to align the roadway with a function route.  Frogtown serves as an eastern by-pass of Dahlonega and is functionally classified as a major collector while Lewis School Road is local.  Rather than posting additional guide signs here, a simple restriping of the intersection with new regulatory and warning signs should correct this issue.

GPS Myths

A myth keeps being perpetuated that guide signs are no longer needed because of the presence of GPS.  First, using GPS while driving constitutes distracted driving.  Since it is now illegal in Georgia to use cell phones except hands-free, how will people find anything without guide signs or breaking the law?  GPS has led drivers into bodies of water and fields while it has also tragically led truckers onto unsafe bridges that were heavily damaged or collapsed as a result.  While common sense certainly applies, part of the problem is that drivers in Georgia have been unable to rely on guide signs to get around the state: nothing new.

Since guide signs that already exist are inaccurate, hard to read, not posted frequently enough, and they are never posted on major local functional routes, they are effectively useless off of the interstates.  Finding anything in the state has forced drivers to rely completely on mapping tools, because the state and local governments have both refused to properly invest in guide signs to advertise the shortest and best route.  In other words, this was a problem before Garmin and Waze were ever sold to the public.  Heavy use of guide signs is NOT a problem according the MUTCD, and we should have a lot more in the state of Georgia.  Perhaps they cannot all be installed in a year, but a properly executed procedure to correct this could greatly improve visible and permanent navigation devices while cutting down on clutter.

Remember that directional guide signs are not just a replacement for GPS.  They are there to ADVERTISE the shortest and best routes.  The public does not have inside knowledge.  They do not automatically know the road conditions ahead, the functional classification of the road, unusual traffic conditions (e.g. right turn only), or if a bridge on that road might be unsafe.  Just like when a route number is assigned to a major road, guide signs directing traffic onto roads are typically posted on roads that are the shortest, fastest, or best constructed or to inform traffic of what road they are approaching and where to go at a junction.  Obviously, these signs are not going to be posted at the end of a residential street or low-volume dead-end road, but it is perfectly acceptable and should be required to post these signs on collector and arterial roads that are constructed to acceptable highway standards.  This includes paved county roads and city streets constructed with proper geometry, lane width, and shoulders as well as some that are substandard, but provide the only suitable route over a long distance.  Even if a road is closed to trucks or is partially unpaved, that is not always a reason to omit guide signs.  Simply adding the truck restriction or advance warning of an unpaved road is an acceptable way to handle it.

Now that all the issues are laid out, it is time to explore how to fix these problems.  

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS TO GUIDE SIGN ISSUES

One thing that must be made very clear right away is that the decentralized approach to guide signs is not going to work to fix these issues.  While centralization of all traffic control has already been discussed, full centralization is not required to fix guide sign issues alone.  However, a dedicated fund for this work, a very project-oriented approach, and a change in attitude about what constitutes a highway and how much the state should be helping must be done to make this work.  While prioritizing the replacement of guide signs on state routes is important, expanding this work to include a complete study of every road that needs them on or off-system is the better approach.  It allows these signs to be integrated on both systems.

In other words, these issues cannot be fixed with routine maintenance.  They are going to require the hiring of one or more private engineering firms to review what is in place, and these firms need to conduct studies to determine what is needed, unbounded by jurisdiction.  Where guide signs already exist, this may involve:

  1. Changing route numbers where it might cause confusion
  2. Removing duplicate route designations
  3. Switching out or adding control cities at intersections
  4. Removing redundant or unnecessary guide signs
  5. As mentioned before, using larger signs of up to 10" text (8" is typically required on freeways and expressways on ground mounted signs)
  6. Designing better route assemblies
  7. Relocating signs to be closer or further from an intersection
  8. Replacing span wire overheads with larger D15-1 or freeway-style guide signs.

By beginning it as a project, this also allows local roads to be studied without placing the liability directly on GDOT or using any maintenance funds from either GDOT or any of the local governments.  For all intents and purposes, GDOT and the local governments must look at the highway system by function and not ownership, and each GDOT district should sit down with the local governments and these firms to iron out details on guide sign locations to coincide and cooperate with road conditions and restrictions once these initial studies are done.  The private firms should also use these studies as a means of developing guide sign standards for the state to eventually be included in a badly needed state MUTCD supplement.  That means that each firm involved must work with the state to decide specific designs for each sign that is not otherwise specified in the MUTCD or differs in some way from the MUTCD (such as text height).  These projects will introduce new practices not currently in place, and they will fill holes around the state where signage is missing.  This article further describes how to institute a regional guide sign program.


Alvaton Road, a major collector road in Meriwether County, connects GA 362 at GA 74/85 to Luthersville and GA 54.  It is a county gap of a continuous route with only one turn.  Posting junction route and guide signs with an adjustment of any existing warning or regulatory signs in the project vicinity is a necessary step to improving the functionality of Georgia roads.  Although the road is county and bans trucks does not mean it should not be posted as an alternate route for lighter vehicles.  

In addition, fixing the guide sign issue will not just be about putting guide signs among existing signs.  Usually, this work will involve the replacement, addition or relocation of other signs in the vicinity such as intersection warning signs, speed limit signs, and any other signs that are in a position that did not account for the addition of directional guide signs.  Furthermore, since most of these roads are not numbered routes, it will be necessary to add either advanced intersection warning signs (W16-8) or advanced intersection guide signs (D3-2) as a stand-in for route signs since the name functions as the route designation.  Posting of county route numbers should be considered in the future, but before something like that is done, these issues all need to be addressed properly and effectively.  Once all guide signs are reconstructed to the new standards and built to proper specifications, a case-by-case program to determine county routes should be done: especially as a means of keeping a route assigned along decommissioned routes.  The use of old alignment route signage, however, should be considered as part of the overall program and will be discussed in a later post.


A proposal under development will describe special signage for old alignments of state and U.S. highways that will range from single identifiers past a junction with a state route to continuous trailblazer-style signage posted along an old alignment with junctions of state highways and major local roads.  This example is for Old U.S. 23 (Old Cornelia Highway) in Hall County where it junctions with GA 52.  Signage features a reverse color scheme with a white legend on black background to not only give an antique look, but to make it look different and less important than official state routes.

Using functional routes instead of jurisdiction should be the method used to design a total guide sign overhaul.  If a roadway is functionally local, most of the time no signage will be needed but there are cases where that is not true, and these situations must be identified as well as why a roadway that is not a collector or arterial is important enough to warrant guide signs, and to what purpose they are needed.  Some examples of roadways that are functionally local that do justify directional and route (junction/trailblazer) signs include:

  • Old GA 5: Cherry Log
    • Portion from Bates to Lucius Road 
  • Old U.S. 441: Lakemont
    • Portion from Tiger to U.S. 441 at Terrora Circle
  • Newport Road: Fannin County
    • Portion from Doublehead Gap Road to Aska Road
    • Serves as the only paved alternative to Big Creek Road and Doublehead Gap Road
  • Lower Union Hill Road: Cherokee County
    • Portion from Sugar Pike Road to East Cherokee Drive
  • Kiutuestia Creek Road: Union County
    • Portion from U.S. 76/GA 515 to Blue Ridge Highway (Old U.S. 76)
  • Tommy Irvin Drive (Old GA 115): Habersham County
  • Rock Spring Road: Banks County
    • More direct and better constructed route than Wynn Lake Road (which is partially unpaved)
  • Coots Lake Road: Polk County
    • Springdale Road to U.S. 278/GA 101
    • More direct and better constructed route from Braswell to U.S. 278 and Rockmart than Springdale Road

This section of Old GA 5 in Cherry Log had a few trailblazers installed when the road was relocated in 1989.  However, as a business loop through the unincorporated community, better and updated signage is needed.

In order to fix guide sign issues, a protocol needs to be established on how to deal with each intersection, and each intersection or condition must be analyzed by a traffic study.  The areas to study include:


  • Intersections of state highways with other state highways
  • Intersections of local arterials and collectors as well as local connecting roads meeting specific conditions
    • These intersections usually will include D1-xa signs guiding traffic to nearby towns and communities
    • These intersections will also typically include trailblazers directing traffic to the nearest state/U.S./interstate route, if applicable
    • Any special brown or blue destination signs should be worked into these intersections
  • Intersections of state highways with local arterial and collector roads
    • These intersections usually will include D1-xa signs showing state highway destinations and guidance onto the local route if appropriate
    • These intersections will also include at least M2-1 junction signs with any applicable route signs with directional route signs installed on higher volume roads
    • Trailblazers should also be posted to any major arterials in the vicinity such as interstates or GRIP corridors
  • Intersections where traffic is guided to points of interest off of the state highway system
    • This is typically for state parks, lake access, historical sites, or any other public facility such as a community college
  • Stream crossings where posting of bridge memorial plaques or stream name (I-3) signs are justified
  • City limits, county lines, state lines, and unincorporated communities
    • Counties and cities should be notified if they choose to add a seal to the jurisdictional boundary sign, but designs should be consistent in every jurisdiction with messages limited to just the name of the jurisdiction or "WELCOME TO" the name of the jurisdiction.
    • In rural areas and along local roads, county line signs should include both the name of the county being entered and the name of the county being left
    • Unincorporated community boundaries are loosely defined, but if they serve as destinations on guide signs, as junctions of functional routes, or function on a level similar to a city or town they should typically be posted with a standard design
  • Intersections where trailblazers to the nearest highway are justified
    • This may direct traffic onto a functionally local road, especially if it involves an interstate interchange

Minor collectors should have signage in many cases: especially when the roadway is very long, and it should be requirement that federal-aid eligible roads, especially arterials, have all necessary route and guide signage outside of built-up areas.  Urban collectors do not need typically need directional and trailblazer signage, but plenty of exceptions exist: especially if the roadway is a truck route or serves some other regional purpose or a confusing intersection with a major route necessitates route and guide signs.  No roadway class should be viewed as entirely exempt from signage.

POSSIBLE MAINTENANCE SOLUTIONS

These guide and route signs could all be perfectly designed, perfectly planned, and perfectly installed, but they will stop being useful as soon as they stop being maintained.  It is clear that local governments are not committed to maintaining anything like this, so a strategy for their maintenance is needed.  This can be everything from:

  • A small fund set aside by GDOT to provide replacement of damaged signs and knockdowns inbetween guide sign projects
    • This can be handled directly by GDOT or indirectly by having the local jurisdiction pull the original sign plans and pay a contractor to replace the sign where GDOT will reimburse for the work if it is produced and re-installed according to the original plans
  • An "insurance policy" that is paid by every county each year that is put into a special fund used to pay for total replacement of signs damaged by vandalism, premature sign failure, storms, and vehicle accidents
    • Incidents that require replacement of any signs or mounting devices within a reasonable 10-15 year span will be covered by the policy
    • Unusued funds will be put toward future guide sign upgrade projects on local roads
  • A reorganization of responsibilities for traffic control devices that directs more resources and funding to off-system signage (explained in a separate post).
  • Use of cheaper materials for local installs
    • This includes wood posts and plywood sign panels in lieu of steel and aluminum in areas with low traffic volumes and populations
    • Design, width, and reflectivity should not be compromised
    • However, text height may be reduced to 5" from 6" from roads with speed limits of 45 MPH or less in rural areas and 4" on roads with speed limits of 30 MPH or less

On the last point, the answer is that traffic control responsibilities should be combined as much as possible to free up funds and to organize resources so that maintenance of guide signs as well as all other traffic control devices is kept up to the same standards as initial installation as much as possible with the least state involvement.  Large, heavy equipment and special materials that are not routine in the budgets of small counties or cities can be better managed when shared across many jurisdictions while this will be difficult for a majority of local jurisdictions to fund or install on their own.

IT IS TIME TO DO THIS RIGHT

Georgia is not a poor or low population state.  The gas tax was raised, and GDOT has comparatively little responsibility for roads in contrast to many other states along the East Coast.  It is time to plan, install, and maintain guide signs much better than they currently are.  This means replacing all of the thousands of substandard signs on state routes with wider, larger, better designed, and more legible signs while eliminating confusion as much as possible.  However, this also means truly rethinking the process and bringing local governments on board so that Georgia's highway system is less focused on ownership and more on function.  This means that thousands of miles of county roads and city streets that are constructed to support it should be properly signed with guide signs as well: a process that can be handled by using a complete study of both state and local roads based on the criteria laid out in this post.