Purple? Green? Yellow? Tollways mulls over new signs

This story was updated to correct the amount Illinois tollway signs with multiple colors and graphics could cost. They could cost from $116,000 to $124,000, not $160,000.

Tired of the same-old, same-old digital signs on your tollway commute? That could be changing as the Illinois tollway heads toward a color makeover.

The agency aims to begin testing dynamic messaging signs with colors and pictures this year, starting with the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90).

"The western section of I-90 is an early place to see these full-color, dynamic message signs, which are going to give us a great opportunity to communicate more clearly with the public and use a broader array of messaging," Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

But approval is also required from the Federal Highway Administration, and costs have to be figured in; a sign with multiple colors and graphics could cost from $116,000 to $124,000.

The trick is to find images that drivers understand quickly and don't bombard people with unnecessary information, maintenance and traffic general manager John Benda said at a Wednesday meeting.

Other states are using higher-tech signs, and the advantages are the messages can be recognized more easily. For example, along with words warning of slippery conditions, an icon of a car skidding shows up, officials explained.

The tollway conducted some test runs of the new signs with staff members and found interstate symbols performed well, as did familiar icons such as orange signs featuring construction workers. Duds included an image of handcuffs for a warning against driving under the influence and a sun hidden behind a black cloud that indicated an ozone action day.

Tests will allow the tollway to "see what works and what doesn't. If we implement this more broadly on the tollway we'll do it responsibly," Lafleur said.

If the tollway goes with new signs, one benefit is that they're large enough that maintenance workers can walk into the apparatus without requiring lane closures.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.