CREATED Dec 27, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Drivers on Southern Arizona’s Interstate 19 are seeing double. From Tucson to Nogales, there are sets of identical or nearly-identical highway signs. Often, the signs are right next to each other. What’s the reason for the odd sight -- and how much did taxpayers pay for it?
One pair of signs, for example, mark exit 95. Each sign reads “Pascua Yaqui Pueblo,” and the two are several feet part wih one behind the other.
There's a simple explanation: Ariz. Dept. of Transportation crews are replacing signs and have yet to take down the old ones.
Why the shiny new signage?
“A lot of these signs have been on I-19 for over 20 years,” said ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel. “They've really started to deteriorate.”
Krugel explained heat, sun, graffiti, traffic and time have taken a toll on the signs, adding the elements cause the signs to lose their nighttime reflectiveness over time.
“If you're traveling at freeway speeds, they may look like they're just fine,” Krugel said, “But when you're traveling at night, these signs -- they're not as reflective. They can be much harder to see.”
Krugel said federal dollars -- which cannot go toward construction work -- will pay for 2,000 highly-reflective and therefore safer signs over a 63-mile stretch. The total price tag: $1.6 million.
The new signs meet updated federal standards, using a new font that's bigger and easier to read, Krugel said.
Why build new signs with new metal supports and concrete bases? KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen asked Krugel, “Why not reuse these steel posts that hold the (old) signs?”
“These new foundations are crash-worthy supports where, if a vehicle impacts it, it's going to break from its foundation and potentially save someone's life,” Krugel eventually said, adding the new materials are more resistant to strong winds.
The signs along I-19 follow the metric system, generally listing distances in kilometers. Will ADOT convert those kilometers to miles on the new signs? No, the agency said, because sign crews aren’t replacing signs listing distances. They’re replacing exit signs and other safety notices, Krugel said.
Why does the stretch of highway use kilometers anyway? Krugel explained in the late 70s and early 80s, the federal government picked a few corridors around the country to experiment with signs using the metric system. I-19 was one spot and the signs have remained.
ADOT crews will temporarily close some lanes as part of the project in January.