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September 25, 2013

Madison Heights aims to upgrade all signs by November

New MDOT grant will help defray significant capital costs

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Jeremy Deatherage, left, and Russell Grieve, with the Madison Heights Department of Public Services, stand by one of the newly upgraded signs at West Barrett and Alger Sept. 18. Since 2007, the city has been updating its signage to comply with new standards for legibility and reflectivity.

MADISON HEIGHTS — More than 3,700 signs are being updated in Madison Heights to meet new federal standards for lettering size, font case and reflectivity, ensuring they’re readable from a distance and visible even in low-light conditions.

This is especially key since, according to the Federal Highway Transportation Administration (FHWA), half of all traffic fatalities occur during nighttime hours, even though only one-quarter of all travel occurs at night.

Madison Heights has been diligently working on the project since the new standards were adopted in 2007. As of 2010, the Department of Public Services had replaced nearly 50 percent of the city’s overall signage. Now, they’re in the final stretch, expected to wrap all sign work this November.

The project comes at a significant capital cost of nearly $286,600. Fortunately, the city recently secured a grant through the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to help cover the costs. Along with a local match of $18,600, the city has the nearly $93,000 needed to cover the last leg of the project.

Madison Heights City Council approved the agreement between the city and MDOT at their meeting Sept. 9. The lone dissenting vote was Councilman Brian Hartwell.

“The new signs will show clearer and more defined,” said Madison Heights City Manager Ben Myers. “The work is all being done in-house, with no contractual labor — it’s all city personnel doing the work. The cost is primarily two things: the steel posts for the signage — roughly one-third of the cost — and the signs themselves.”

The application for the grant was submitted in July and approved in August. It was preceded by a three-year period in which the city took stock of non-compliant signs and figured out the engineering needs of the project. Among the supporting documentation required by the state was a map of the city showing all locations for sign upgrades.

“We’ve already received compliments from residents about the improved visibility,” Myers said. “We also have the vertical strips we put along the posts under the stop signs, yield signs and school crossings. They’re color-coordinated with the signs. I think those are also making a difference.”

Joseph Vitali Jr., the public works supervisor, said the MDOT grant is good timing.

“We are very fortunate to have secured this grant funding to assist the city in virtually completing all of the sign upgrading that is required,” Vitali said in an email. “One note: The DPS … is a very busy department, maintaining over 3,700 signs on a daily basis prior to this federal mandate.”

Myers also thanked MDOT.

“I’m pleased we’ve gotten the supplemental funding to finish the last bit of work,” Myers said. “We have considered this a priority, from a safety standpoint.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.