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Ray LaHood: Street Signs Plan "Makes No Sense"

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. AP

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood backed away on Tuesday from obscure but increasingly controversial new transportation regulations that would require an expensive overhaul of American street signs over the course of the next several years.

"I believe that this regulation makes no sense," LaHood said in a statement released on Tuesday. "It does not properly take into account the high costs that local governments would have to bear. States, cities, and towns should not be required to spend money that they don't have to replace perfectly good traffic signs."

The regulations, which fall under the 800-page "Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices," were originally aimed to make street signs easier to read for older Americans. The costs of enacting the new rules, however, have led to widespread complaints among local officials.

The requirements call for bigger fonts, new reflective letters, and a mix of capitalized and lowercase lettering. The first changes are set to be enacted by January 2012, and fully implemented by 2018.

On Monday, at LaHood's urging, the Federal Highway Administration announced a 45-day period of public comment on the regulations - the first step toward a possible repeal by the Department of Transportation. (LaHood lacks the necessary authority to repeal the rules himself.)

"There have got to be better ways to improve safety without piling costs onto the American people," LaHood said. "Safety is our priority, but so is good government.''

The new rules were proposed under the Bush administration, and went into effect after President Obama took office.

The American Traffic Safety Services Association reportedly lobbied aggressively for the enactment of the new regulations - and 3M Corporation, which manufactures the reflective material now required on all street signs, funded at least one study that helped justify the changes.

Studies show that reflective signs are easier for drivers to see at night, and that mixed-use of capitalized and non-capitalized lettering are easier to read in general.

Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.