Legislative advocacy for the roadway safety industry

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Omnibus bill reinstates Clearview Font Interim Approval
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Omnibus bill reinstates Clearview Font Interim Approval

Newly reinstated font that was designed for easier readability was prohibited by FHWA in 2016

A previously prohibited font for highway traffic signs has been reinstated following the passage of the Omnibus bill. For Fiscal Year 2018, the bill directs the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to issue an Interim Approval (IA) for the Clearview font, which was originally designed to increase readability at long distances and at night for motorists.

On March 28, the FHWA issued a memorandum to officially comply with the order to reinstate IA-5. The memorandum restores the original usage guidelines laid out in IA-5, which was announced in an FHWA memorandum in 2004. Transportation agencies will now be able to submit written requests to the administration to use the font on highway traffic signs.

IA-5 was issued during the time that the 2003 MUTCD was in effect and the FHWA did not incorporate it into the 2009 Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). IA-5 was officially prohibited by the FHWA in 2016.

A technical brief released by the FHWA explains the termination of IA-5, “The practical difference attributed to the letter style was characterized as ‘modest’ and the apparent improvement of the provisional letter style could be ‘partly attributed to [its] increased size.’”

However, a Michigan Department of Transportation study found that Clearview font reduced the number of freeway crashes by 26 percent. Additionally, a recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University Transportation Institute (TTI) found that Clearview font performed better than Highway Gothic across all tests.

Upon implementation of the Omnibus bill’s provisions, the FHWA and other transportation agencies will not be able to use funds to remove or replace highway traffic signs with Clearview font. In addition to issuing an IA allowing the usage of Clearview font, the FHWA is also responsible for conducting a comprehensive review of the research on Clearview font and reporting its findings to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 90 days of enactment of the Omnibus bill.

The report must document the safety and cost implications of the decision to terminate approval of Clearview font and fully address the comments submitted by affected states during the related Dec. 13, 2016 request for information (FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2016-0036).

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