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2018-07-11 / News

Requested vs. Required Signs: The Road Agency Conundrum

“Children Playing,” “Pass with Care” and “Slow - Deaf Child Area” are just a few examples of non-regulated road signs that most county road agencies say actually don’t make the roads safer.

County road agencies in Michigan follow the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a US Federal Highway Administration publication that outlines required signs such as: speed limit signs, curve signs, stop and yield signs and other regulatory signs. (Sign installation is the responsibility of the road authority.)

The non-regulatory signs “only give comfort to the property owner who requested the sign. The traffic does not pay attention to these signs,” said Brian Gutowski, PE, engineer manager for the Emmet County Road Commission (ECRC).

County road agencies interviewed in the Summer 2018 edition of Crossroads, the quarterly journal of the County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan, agree that road signs become ineffective when there are too many.

“Allegan County no longer installs deer, duck or other animal crossing signs and no tractor or watershed signs. We also don’t allow permanent truck crossing signs,” said Larry Brown, PE, recently retired managing director of the Allegan County Road Commission (ACRC).

“According to the manual, if you have pavement markings showing ‘No Passing Zones,’ signs are not required. We’re in the process of removing unapproved signs. We haven’t had any complaints about removing ‘No Passing’ signs,” Brown added.

The exception to the prohibition of non-regulatory signs for the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) is one for bicyclists.

“We listen to the community and see what the numbers of bicyclists are in that area and whether it’s really a bike route,” said Roy Townsend, PE, WCRC managing director.

“The engineer in me says follow the Manual, but things can get political,” Townsend said, which is why WCRC considers community input.

The 83 members of the County Road Association of Michigan represent the unified voice for a safe and efficient county transportation infrastructure system in Michigan, including appropriate stewardship of the public’s right-of-way in rural and urban Michigan.

Collectively, Michigan’s county road agencies manage 75 percent of all roads in the state, including 90,000 miles of roads and 5,700 bridges. County road agencies also maintain the state’s highway system in 64 counties. Michigan has the nation’s fourth-largest local road system.

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