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Archive for February 18th, 2020

Blue Mountain Scenic Byway

The Oregon Department of Transportation is responsible for furnishing and maintaining directional, regulatory, warning, and informational signing on the state highway system.

Can you explain the significance behind every color and symbol used in Oregon’s road signs?  How about the inspiration behind the center line that has divided roads for decades?

ODOT Signs

It was interesting to learn, that the first modern centerline was painted in 1917. White was chosen by its designer, Edward Hines, who was inspired after seeing milk spill from a delivery wagon on a newly-paved road.  In 1935, highway officials gave local governments options when it came to painting centerlines. They could be either yellow, white, or black, depending on the color of the underlying pavement. By 1955, 49 states had adopted white stripes to divide their traffic lanes.  The ONLY holdout, Oregon, who preferred yellow, arguing that it was safer.

The federal government balked at such a ridiculous suggestion and threatened to withhold $300 million in highway funds. Oregon begrudgingly complied, but likely felt vindicated in 1971, when the federal government mandated that centerlines now be painted yellow, with white stripes reserved for roads where traffic drove in the same direction. (Lines on the sides of roads didn’t gain traction with officials until the mid-1950s. Before that, edge markings were prohibited. They were finally advocated in 1961, and then mandated in 1978.)

Route Signs

How about when Oregon Department of Transportation spent $680,000.00 to switch out 400 speed limit signs for House Bill 3402 when it passed in 2015 and increased the speed limit to 70 MPH on selected roadways.  At $1,700.00 for each sign…that is some kind of phenomenon speed sign!

If you’re like me, as you ride by a roadway sign, you likely understand the signage on a subconscious level and that’s why the designs were chosen in the first place.

Colored signs were erected along a stretch of roadway in the mid-1950s. The signs led to two cities: Utopia and Metropolis. Drivers were later polled about which sign color they preferred. Green came out on top at 58 percent, followed by blue (27 percent), and black (15 percent).

Many road sign features have interesting origin stories.

IMPORTANT: Riding on painted lines reduces grip when it rains.

REMINDER:  “White lining” is NOT legal in Oregon.  This is the act of lane-splitting or when a motorcycle travels along the white line between two adjacent lanes of traffic.

Photos courtesy of ODOT.

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