When it comes to road construction, there are two types of signs: wayfinding and safety.
Wayfinding signs direct us to local businesses and are important for customer service and economic sustainability.
Safety signs, of course, are the more obvious — speed limit, arrows, road closure and detour notices that direct traffic and limit accidents.
For drivers who have visited our local U.S. 41 construction area recently, it's obvious that vigilance is required. Too many signs can be overwhelming and confusing.
At the intersection of Packerland Drive and West Mason Street, for example, there are multiple sets of wayfinding signs for local businesses as well as road signs that drivers need time to read to navigate safely to their destinations.
Businesses posting wayfinding signs should drive the affected area regularly and look for placement opportunities with the least nearby distractions.
But remember, privately posted highway signs must be approved by the appropriate Department of Transportation project engineer first.
The DOT has specific guidelines for installing temporary business guidance signs along highway improvement projects.
For example, signs for an individual business may not be greater than 3-by-3 feet. If multiple businesses are combined on a single sign, it may not be greater than 4-by-8 feet. Preference is usually given to multiple business signs, so consider collaborating with your neighbors.
When access to the business is through a closed portion of the highway under construction, businesses are allowed one direction sign at the beginning of the detour.
However, additional "trailblazer" signs may be approved at the discretion of the project engineer.
To be approved, lettering should be black in a block-style font on a white background. Letters may be up to 4 inches tall for posted speeds less than 45 miles per hour and 6 inches tall for faster speeds.
Unfortunately, these stipulations do not always allow for optimum visibility.
Although white lettering on a black background is considered easiest to read, color reduces search and improves retention by roughly 80 percent. Research also shows that parallel signs are missed significantly more than perpendicular ones.
As for lettering, all caps is difficult to read. For better visibility, use upper and lowercase letters (this conforms to DOT guidelines). Ideally, letters should be 1-inch high for every 10 feet of viewing distance.
If your business is dealing with road construction issues in a nonhighway area, you likely will have greater flexibility in sign placement.
You may even be able to negotiate your own temporary sign arrangements with property owners along the route. Not sure what's allowed? Your sign vendor can help you determine which local and state guidelines apply.