Road signs throughout the county have been marked with colorful spray paint as local street departments replace about 6,000 stop, warning and street signs with bigger, more reflective versions.
Workers are taking down old and faded signs in the county, cities and towns to meet a federal requirement to upgrade to bigger signs with larger print that also reflect headlights better.
Local governments need to inspect all of their signs and identify which ones need to be upgraded by June 2014, then begin replacing them as needed, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The new signs are bigger and easier to see in the dark and make the roads safer, officials said. New stop signs in Franklin, for example, are 6 inches larger and reflect light better, allowing drivers to see them from farther away, Franklin street commissioner Ron Collins said.
Communities have started identifying which signs need to be replaced; and some towns, such as New Whiteland, have replaced most of their signs.
The county, Greenwood and Franklin received federal grants totaling more than $1 million to replace signs this year, and smaller towns are spending a few thousand a year, replacing as many signs as they can with a portion of the money they would typically use for road projects.
But with about 20,000 road signs countywide that can cost anywhere from $30 to more than $50 each, the total cost to replace every sign is expected to be more than $2 million.
Previously the federal government planned to require all warning signs, such as stop signs, to be replaced by 2015, with other signs like street names delayed until 2018. Last summer the federal government backed off the deadlines after receiving feedback from communities around the country who couldn’t afford to replace all their signs by those dates.
Counties, cities and towns now are required only to review and form a replacement plan for road signs by June 2014. Those governments can then replace the signs that no longer reflect enough light as they are needed.
The average sign lasts about 10 to 12 years, but signs that are more exposed to sun and weather may need to be replaced more often, county highway director Luke Mastin said. For example, a stop sign at a rural crossroads wears out faster than one in a shady Center Grove subdivision, he said.
Street and highway departments can send a trained inspector to look at the signs or use
light-reading equipment to see if they have faded, or they can be replaced after a certain number of years, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Local street departments are planning to replace more than 6,000 signs this year.
About 2,400 of the 8,000 road signs in the unincorporated parts of the county didn’t meet reflectivity requirements and are being replaced by the end of this year, Mastin said.
The county received a $370,000 federal grant to inspect all of the signs and begin replacing them, Mastin said. The county had to pay a 10 percent match of $37,000. That money will allow the county to finish the first 2,400 signs, and the county will either need to get new grants or pay for future upgrades with local tax money.
About 600 signs in the Center Grove area have been replaced so far this summer, Mastin said.
Greenwood also received about $360,000 in grants to start replacing about 800 of its 5,000 total road signs. More than half of that grant was spent hiring a company to go out and inspect all of the city’s signs, director of community development services Mark Richards said.
The city could need about $750,000 more to finish replacing the rest of the signs over the next few years and will try to get more grant funds.
Smaller towns including Whiteland, New Whiteland and Bargersville didn’t receive grants and have been devoting part of the money they normally spend on road work for signs.
New Whiteland has replaced all of the stop signs in the town and almost all of the street name signs, which are now bigger with larger type, Johnson said. The town started three years ago and has spent about $15,000 so far in the process of upgrading all 1,000 signs.
Drivers have commented that they can see road signs better at night and read them more easily because of the larger print, New Whiteland public works superintendent Wendell Johnson said.
Whiteland also has been spending about $2,500 per year and has replaced all stop signs and warning signs, street superintendent Chris Jones said.