Friday, April 27, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

BGSs (Big Green Signs) on the Gulf Freeway (Click photo for full size)

My upcoming road trip to Houston is still a little ways off, but since I am in a road trip mood, let's take a look at some of the photos I took last October during a visit there (yeah, I got there by air and rented a car). Here are a couple of sign banks on the Gulf Freeway (I-45) getting near Hobby Airport. There are a couple of things to note in this photo. First, there is a sign goof. Do you see it? The Interstate Highway shield for I-45 is not the right proportions. It is a wider version used for 3-digit Interstate loops and spurs. The 45 should have been on a narrower shield.

I snapped this while driving down the freeway and just pointed the camera in the general direction of the signs. The real reason I tried for this shot is in the signs in the background. I will extract and zoom in on that reason in the photo below.

Does it jump out at you like it does me? This sign features the new Clearview font that has been approved for highway signs. Clearview is supposedly easier to read while driving down the road than the older font seen in most of the signs in the first photo. Texas is starting to deploy Clearview signs, but it and Pennsylvania are making the move in the U.S. at this point. Colorado has not adopted the new typeface. After years of seeing the older font on road signs, Clearview jumps out at you just because it is different. I guess time will tell if it really is easier to read.

Below you can see a fairly new section of the Southwest Freeway, US 59 and future I-69, in Sugar Land. Even though this is a new stretch of freeway, the old Highway Gothic font is in use.

BGS in Sugar Land, Texas

This photo also shows a couple of things that you don't see here in Colorado. First, the frontage road, or as Houstonians call them, feeders, are rare outside of Texas. Almost every freeway in the state has them, and they are quite useful for access on and off. Also notice the lanes on the feeder are marked by "Botts' Dots", named after their inventor, a California highway engineer. They are raised dots glued onto the road surface to mark the lanes. They are more durable than paint, and also give you audio and tactile feedback when crossing lanes. The obvious reason you don't find them in Colorado is that we have snowplows here. During the winter, the plows would just pop them right off the road, leaving it unmarked. Botts' Dots are common in Houston and Southern California.

For more on Clearview see the following web sites:

US Department of Transportation
Samples of Clearview and Highway Gothic

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