COLUMBIA — Larger letters for aging eyes.
An aging population is one reason the city plans to enlarge the letters on street name signs as required by the federal government.
"With the average age of motorists going up, the Federal Highway Administration has decided to make signs bigger," said Scott Bitterman, traffic engineer with the city
The Federal Highway Administration wants to help ensure the safety of older drivers and accommodate the physical consequences of aging, including "declining vision, decreased physical fitness and flexibility, decreased ability to focus attention and increased reaction time," according to a Highway Administration handbook.
Bitterman said the larger letters are a federal requirement from the Federal Highway Administration's revised "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," released last year.
The Columbia City Council approved funding of $25,000 a year for seven years for the project Monday night. This total, about $170,000, will come from the city's street maintenance budget.
Major changes will be made over the course of the next seven years, which Bitterman said is the average life of a street name sign.
He said in an e-mail the city will upgrade street name signs when maintenance is performed, often when signs are stolen, vandalized, knocked over or faded.
According to the federal guidelines for street name signs, changes will be categorized into three groups:
Six-inch letter heights for street name signs mounted on posts
Streets with 30 to 40 mph speed limits will have the letters in their street signs increased in height from 4 to 6 inches. There are about 1,400 signs in Columbia that need to be heightened from the 4-inch letter size. The cost of increasing the size of the letters on these signs has been estimated at $92,000.
Eight-inch letter heights for street name signs mounted on posts and 12-inch letter heights on overhead street name signs mounted on overhead horizontal poles, usually traffic signal poles
Streets with speed limits greater than 40 mph that have more than three lanes must have letter heights of 8 inches. The letters on about 900 signs in Columbia need to be enlarged from their current 4-inch height at an estimated cost of $77,000.
Mixed-case letters for all street name signs
Street names with all uppercase letters will be changed to mixed-case letters, with the first letter capitalized and the rest lowercase. The city will change all letters on street name signs to mixed case regardless of the speed limit.