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Local officials told they must replace traffic signs

By Staff | Apr 11, 2010

An official from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) didn’t have a lot of good news for Faribault County township officers last Wednesday night.

Kenneth Schroepfer told the group of township officers and county officials that they need to be inspecting their traffic signs and replacing any that don’t meet reflectivity standards.

And, he added, there are no federal or state funds available to help pay for the new signs.

Schroepfer says the county and townships need to have a sign inspection program in place by Jan. 22, 2012. That plan needs to include an inventory of all signs, which ones are up to code and which ones are not.

A plan and budget for replacing the signs must also be in place. By January of 2015, all signs need to meet new reflectivity codes.

Schroepfer says the old style signs, which were on engineer grade sheet metal and had embossed letters are no longer acceptable.

“All of the traffic signs need to be just as visibleat night as they are during the day,” Schroepfer says. “It is a matter of retroreflectivity, which means how much light the signs reflect back to the drivers.”

Schroepfer had several examples of photos of signs by day and by night, showing how some could not be seen after dark. He also explained the differences in reflective material used in signs.

“We checked a brand new sign at the Faribault County shop, and it didn’t meet the retroreflectivity requirements,” Schroepfer says.

He said it is going to be up to each county and township to do their own inspections. He went into detail how this was to be done.

“You need to check them at night, with headlights,” he says. He also suggested having two inspectors, with one of them being over 60 years old. “Our ability to see at night decreases as we get older,” he says.

Schroepfer admitted that while all signs need to be in compliance by 2015, there are no plans for state inspections.

“There are no ‘sign police’ who will come and tell you that you are not in compliance,” he says. “And, there are no real consequences.”

However, the MnDOT official says the consequences could come in court if there is an accident due to faulty signs which can’t be read at night.

Schroepfer also says the sign plans must include how often signs will be replaced.

“Most have a warranty for 10-12 years,” he says. “You must decide how long you will keep them up before you will replace them again.”

Several township officers commented after the meeting that they wondered how they will accomplish replacing signs when their budgets are being cut by the state.

“We don’t have enough money to maintain roads and bridges and they want us to replace all of the signs,” one township director said. “I think we should get some of that stimulus money to help pay for all this.”

Schroepfer says the cost of most signs with the proper retroreflectivity material run $3.84 per square foot. An average large stop sign costs $52, he says.

“I think it could be a good idea for the county and the townships to order signs together at one time, and save some money,” he says.

County Engineer John McDonald, who was at the meeting, agreed, and said his department would be glad to work with the townships.