Three Ways to Tell It’s Time to Replace Street Signs

How do you know when it’s time to replace street signs? There are clear-cut cases when vandalism or damage occurs, but a whole lot of gray areas exist, depending on the maintenance plan and guidelines an agency is following. It’s also a loaded question because priorities and resources play a huge role.

To help you evaluate if your street signs need replacing, we’re highlighting three areas to consider:


Traffic signs have a retroreflective sheeting that increases their visibility at night. Because the retroreflective properties of these signs deteriorate over time, agencies need to actively manage the maintenance of signs to ensure that they are clearly visible at night, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Over time, UV damage deteriorates the vinyl sheeting. Older engineer-grade vinyl prior to 2007 lasted about seven years, while newer signs have a 10- to 12-year lifespan.

Some cities use a handheld sign retroreflectometer or “gun” to measure retroreflectivity. Some rely on personnel or inspectors to visually assess the retroreflective performance of signs. Others rely on a colored dot sticker method to label new signs in a particular part of town. After a determined period of time, all of the signs with the same color dot are replaced at once.

Code requirements

Cities have the choice of writing their own signage plans, but many choose to adopt the FHA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standards. MUTCD provides the minimum safety standards, but state transportation agencies often differ in how they comply with MUTCD standards.

The biggest reason cities decide to replace signs and posts is to align with MUTCD or other maintenance standards. “When a new edition or revision of the national MUTCD is issued, states have two years to adopt it, with or without a state supplement, or to adopt a state MUTCD that is in substantial conformance with the new edition of the national MUTCD. For the 2009 edition, the date by which adoption by the States was required was Jan. 15, 2012,” according to MUTCD.

New projects will meet existing requirements, but should include maintenance programs.

Upgrade potential

When communities revitalize a downtown area, they may decide to upgrade signage for a more historic feel. HOAs seeking to establish their neighborhood as upscale or quaint will choose decorative signage for the same reasons.

This year, the Seattle Department of Transportation completed a nine-year project to replace all street name signs in Seattle. SDOT annually replaced 1,000 to 1,700 intersection signs. It’s a big job, but the 40-year-old signs needed to go and the city benefited from the fresher look.

Let Brandon Industries help with all your signage needs.