A pending federal regulation is just one more sign of the times

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The federal government just can’t help itself.

    Facing tight budgets, local governments will soon be facing an additional unfunded mandate that will strain those budgets even further.
    The Federal Highway Administration believes the street signs we look at every day just aren’t cutting it. And so, they will have to be changed. In some cases, at great cost.
    So what’s the matter with those signs. Well, for starters, apparently there’s a problem if a street sign is written in all capital letters. Those are now on the naughty list with the federal government and when signs are replaced, well, the signs must use lowercase letters, with an initial uppercase letter.
    Feel safer?
    You should. The federal government says street signs with all caps are harder to read.
    But there’s more.
    By 2018, letters on all street name signs must be at least 6 inches tall. And they also will have to be reflective. That’s so they can be read at night.
    Can we get a little sanity here? Maybe there’s still time. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced this week there will be a 45-day public comment period on the mandate. Here’s one thought: NOW’S NOT THE TIME (or, so those in the federal government can read it, Now’s not the time).
    Stated LaHood: “Given the difficult economic conditions states currently face, asking for additional input on compliance dates is the right thing to do. We want to be sure these safety requirements are reasonable, fair and cost-effective.”
    Some localities might be better equipped to make the changes than others. But mandating these changes now doesn’t make sense. And really, changing signs on some roads, just for the sake of changing them, is unnecessary.
    Signs can cost $100 or more to change. The city of Bedford has had a hard enough time lately trying to replace signs that have been stolen. Mandating that all the signs that don’t conform just doesn’t make sense. Not now; not anytime soon.
    If the highway administration wants to make a recommendation; then OK (or is that Ok or maybe Okay). If a community wants to slowly make changes, then it could, as funds become available.
    The problem is, politics are involved. An ABC news report this week noted that one of the companies pushing for the changes is 3M, which just happens to be one of the few companies that produces the reflective material that has to be used in the new signs.
    Feel like making a comment on the new federal regs? You can submit statements to the Federal Register by visiting www.regulations.gov. Just be sure to not use all capital letters in that statement or someone might not be able to read it. It's all just a little...