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$77K for a freeway sign? Here's the breakdown

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By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer
A recent question about freeway signs, and the answer from the state Department of Transportation, prompted a strong response from one reader.
Dan Harvey of Marysville writes: A price tag of $33,000 to $77,000 to install a sign on a roadway is obscene! I wonder if the DOT would be inclined to try to clarify or itemize those costs for the inquiring citizen. And they can get to it in about four years?
Bronlea Mishler, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: "Installing a sign along a highway isn't quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign -- that's why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards.
"The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something -- basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: $2,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; $8,000 for two steel posts and concrete; $5,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; $15,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: $30,000
"The new rules apply if we're doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: $2,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; $75,000 for the sign bridge. Total: $77,600.
"Why the difference? It's like repairing something in your house versus building a new house. If you repair something in your house, it doesn't necessarily need to be up to current code because the house was built a long time ago. But if you were to build a new house, everything would need to be up to code and that would be more expensive.
"In the case of directing drivers from northbound I-405 to northbound I-5, a new sign alongside the road would have to be removed in 2015 during scheduled roadwork in that area and replaced by a sign bridge. We'd rather only do it once and pay for it once."
Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog.
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Story tags » I-5I-405

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