Tribune-Courier News Reporter
In response to a newly adopted federal standard by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the Marshall County Fiscal Court last week approved a measure to replace all road signs in the county in order to improve sign visibility and driver safety at night.
The Marshall County Road Department submitted a five-year plan to replace all county signs last week and will begin the replacement process on June 13.
The new signs will be larger and contain a retro-reflective material that improves visibility at night.
County Judge Executive Mike Miller said the project was initially started by the Department of Transportation in 2012, but was halted because of the cost.
“Now they’ve come back in to enforce it and want to know exactly what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it,” he said. “We still have no idea of the actual cost of the project, but since we can spread the work over a period of time the cost won’t be as large all at once.”
Miller said the project could end up costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
John Henderson, with the Marshall County Road Department, is spearheading the effort to replace all of the signs in the county and was part of the group that developed the five-year replacement plan.
The plan is to replace all county stop signs within a year, then in a two-year span to replace all other warning signs and then in the last year to replace all street name signs.
“Pretty much every sign in the county will change because of the federal regulation,” he said. “We began replacing some of the stop signs last year as they became worn out or were stolen, but it’s going to take a lot of funding and time to replace all of the county’s signs.”
The road department has $25,000 set aside in this year’s budget for the project, but Henderson said that wouldn’t come close to covering the entire cost of the project.
He anticipates the road department will have to request funding from the fiscal court several times to complete it.
“The biggest cost will come from replacing the warning and regulatory signs because we haven’t replaced any of those with the new materials,” he said. “We already have a small leg up on the stop signs.”
Henderson said the county would order the signs from a company at a discounted rate after they know how many they need – right now they are going road by road through the county counting the number of signs that need to be replaced.
“It’s a huge inventory we have to create,” he said. “Literally every sign on every county road needs to be replaced and we’re talking about more than 500 miles of road. Once we finish the inventory we will have a better idea of the final cost.”
Officials with the road department plan on applying for state and federal grants to help with the costs as they become available.