I found out today why my cash-strapped city had replaced all the old and somewhat battered street signs in town with very nice new ones this past year–the Department of Transportation required it.
Yes, the federal government tells every municipality what it’s street signs must look like.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) ensures that all traffic control devices across the country are uniform, to make their directions easier to recognize and promote safety. E.g., your town can’t start using triangles for their stop signs. That’s fine, but the issue here is street signs, not traffic control signs.
The regulation requires larger lettering and greater reflectivity so the signs are easier to read at night. There is nothing wrong with those improvements, certainly, but is it really a federal issue whether Bugtussle, TN, has street signs with the same size lettering and reflectivity as the street signs in Buzzard Roost AR?
The DOT suspended the regulation–promulgated during the George W. Bush era, thank you very much small gov’t conservatives–in late 2011, but not before my town had ordered them. So while we’re struggling to find the funds to keep our swimming pool open–will in fact, use reserve funds this year to do so–we spent thousands of dollars to replace signs that had functioned quite well for decades.