New, hard to see street signs draw complaints

November 6, 2009

By Tim Pfarr

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During the summer, the city installed new street signs along Coal Creek Parkway at the 89th Street, May Valley Road and 91st Street intersections. The signs are light green, a color some would consider chartreuse.

Numerous individuals have said the signs are difficult to read because of the lack of contrast, and Public Works Director Maiya Andrews said because of this, she will not purchase any more such signs until the issue is resolved.

This summer, the city installed new, light-green street signs (left) along Coal Creek Parkway between Southeast 89th Place and Southeast May Valley Road. They are much lighter and harder to read than the old signs (right).

This summer, the city installed new, light-green street signs (top) along Coal Creek Parkway between Southeast 89th Place and Southeast May Valley Road. They are much lighter and harder to read than the old signs (below).

Andrews said she is contacting outside agencies to explore how different inking and reflective material will improve the signs’ visibility. She said if attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful, the city will explore returning to the original, darker-green color.

The city contracted with NBBJ, an architecture and design firm, to design the new signs. The city also contracted with NBBJ to design a new logo, new parks signs and new historical signs.

The city used money from various projects to fund these design costs. The money for the street sign design was included in the Coal Creek Parkway project funds.

The city spent $11,200 on sign design and imaging, but included design of trails signs along the parkway as well as a welcome sign on the south boundary of the city. Andrews said she cannot isolate the amount the city spent to design the street signs specifically.

In September, 2008, the Newcastle Parks Commission reviewed all NBBJ’s imaging concepts, and in a 6-1 vote, sent the concepts to the City Council for further review. Last February, the City Council voted 4-3 to approve the signage and imaging, thus changing the color of new street signs. Ben Varon, Dan Hubbell, Jean Garber and Sonny Putter voted in support of the new signs.

“Chartreuse is held in high regard,” Garber said at the February meeting. “Chartreuse is the new black.”

old sign

old sign

However, after installation, Garber recognized there was a visibility problem with the signs, and said she was one of the first to bring the issue to the city’s attention.

“I think everyone recognizes that they aren’t visible enough,” she said.

Jensen said she anticipated visibility issues when she reviewed the concepts in February, before the signs were installed.

“I specifically brought up the contrast issue,” she said. “I could tell it would be harder to read.”

Jensen said that she voted against the new signage because of the way it came about.

“The biggest thing was there was no public process,” she said, citing that there were a limited number of individuals who reviewed the concepts before the City Council voted to approve them.

Members of the public had the opportunity to voice their opinions of the new signage at the September 2008 Parks Commission meeting and the Feb. 17 City Council meeting. However, no one commented.

At the February meeting, councilors also questioned whether adopting new signage was a priority given the city’s economic state.

City Manager John Starbard said consistent imaging is important to make the city distinctive.

“Having a consistent imaging system makes Newcastle unique,” he said.

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