Street signs last longer here than other parts of the country! (But some still need TLC)

A faded street sign for Oakes Street on the intersection with 31st Street in Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood, Friday, Dec. 1.
A faded street sign for Oakes Street on the intersection with 31st Street in Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood, Friday, Dec. 1. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Q: Why are some street signs so faded? When does the city replace them?

A: This is kind of a variation on a question asked by John, who moved to Tacoma from Philadelphia a few weeks ago. He called up earlier this week and said he’d noticed many street-name signs in Tacoma are faded. He wanted to know whether the city would do anything about it.

I want to applaud John for being a person who obviously looks up and reads street signs instead of just staring at his GPS app while driving to make sure he’s going the right way. Welcome to Tacoma, John. You may have also noticed the potholes.

I asked the city’s incredibly responsive and helpful spokeswoman for Public Works about street sign replacement, and she came back with the following information:

On average nationally, signs are expected to last 10 to 12 years before sunshine and weather beat them up to the point that they need to be replaced. But, probably because we don’t get a whole lot of sunshine around here, signs in the Puget Sound region typically last even longer! (Yay? I realize it’s difficult to feel excited about that when it’s been so gloomy that it feels like we’re living in that Alaskan town in 30 Days of Night.)

Federal standards require cities to have procedures to manage nighttime visibility of signs (parking signs are exempt from nighttime visibility requirements).

Public Works said it has repaired or replaced about 620 street signs so far in 2017, so the department is not unaware of this issue. Maybe street workers just haven’t seen the particular signs John is talking about.

You can actually help out with that.

As noted in previous columns, if you see a street sign that’s faded to the point where it needs to be replaced, you can call TacomaFIRST 311 by dialing 311 within city limits or (253) 591-5000 from outside the city. You can also hit up the TacomaFIRST311 website: www.cityoftacoma.org/TacomaFirst311. From there, go to the 311 button, choose “make a request,” and find the traffic sign missing/damaged section to report a problem with a sign

Stop signs and other high-priority, regulatory signs take precedent, the city said. Street-name signs are typically repaired within 6 weeks.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud