Monroe County's dilemma about regulatory and other signs on U.S. 1 brings to mind the song "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band.
"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin' out the scenery and breakin' my mind. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"
While the highway signs don't say "long-haired freaky people need not apply," as the song does, county planning staff says the number of signs is getting out of hand, and they are blocking out the scenery.
The Overseas Highway is a designated a National Scenic Highway and All-American Road, and county officials do not want clutter to jeopardize its status.
The Monroe County Commission on Wednesday agreed to send the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) a letter asking for the evaluation and removal of excessive regulatory signs on U.S. 1. Signs being targeted are center-lane control signs, no-parking signs, stop signs and intersection warning signs, said Monroe County Transportation Planner Trish Smith.
The county did its own evaluation and is now in the process of removing 200 "way-finding" signs, informational markers that detail locations.
Those signs will be replaced by 160 new signs, Smith said. The $1.1 million project is being funded through an FDOT grant program, she said. The new signs are to be better colored-coordinated and feature a conch shell on them.
However, the county has no authority over speed limit, no-parking and other regulatory signs, hence the letter to FDOT. It's possible some signs could be consolidated.
"What is foremost and important is keeping the roads safe," Smith said.
In the past three years, the county has stepped up enforcement of A-frame and sandwich-board signs in front of businesses along U.S. 1.
In February, the County Commission passed a series of sign rules that allow business owners along U.S. 1 to have A-frame or other small signs in their parking lots, to help them attract customers.
The county allows A-frame signs only on properties without ground-mounted signs, and not in the rights of way owned by FDOT.
The changes came a year after the county and state did a sweep and cited several businesses for illegal signs. The county and business owners worked together to create the new rules to allow for some small signs.