This might seem a little crazy to you. It sure does to me. But during my recent travels, I noticed duplicate signs at dozens of spots along I-49.

I started scratching my head and wondering why are we doing this? I even got a close up look at the old signs and could not see any real flaws. They actually look pretty good. So why are we replacing perfectly good signs? I sent an email about this to Erin Buchanan, the spokeswoman for DOTD and I also copied Dr. Shawn Wilson, the head of DOTD.

Here's the response I got from Buchanan:

 

While it may appear in daylight that the old signs are still perfectly good and performing at their intended service level, all of our signs are checked regularly for reflectivity, primarily at night. The federal government requires states to ensure their signage, especially interstate signage, is meeting a minimum reflectivity requirement. In fact, In 1993, Congress required the Secretary of Transportation to revise the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to include "a standard for a minimum level of retroreflectivity that must be maintained for pavement markings and signs which apply to all roads open to public travel.

She adds:

Fading and bubbling of the tape on the signs is another factor that’s examined during these checks. Over time, these signs need to be replaced and a project is typically developed to address an entire corridor. Maintenance is necessary on signage just as it is on any other element of the roadway.

 

Dr. Wilson also sent us this response:

"In addition to the retro reflectivity standards we sometimes change signs to increase the font. We had a program a few years back to do that."

As a follow up to that response, I asked why not just replace the words on the existing sign. Why is it necessary to install a whole new sign.

Dr. Wilson sent me this message: "Increasing the font size requires a larger sign size to accommodate it. If we kept the same sign size but increased the font, there wouldn’t be room for all the information needed on the sign."

If you look closely at the signs I photographed, I don't see any noticeable font change at all. I'm still wondering why we need all these brand new structures and can not make the "reflectivity" better on the existing structure.

I sent these photos to several state lawmakers and they all expressed disappointment in how tax dollars are being used.  One lawmaker told me he suspects this was probably federal money made available on a 75-25 match and if the money was not spent, we would have to give the federal money back. So we "found a way to spend the money."

I understand the way the feds require matching dollars from the state. But just tell me that. Explain why the money is only to be used for signs. And we had to spend it or lose the federal dollars.