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Sign Maintenance and Replacement

There are three basic methods of sign management that are used as follows:

  • Total Replacement Method

    In this method, all signs along a section of roadway are replaced after a set interval of time, regardless of how long they have been in place. The length of time between replacements is based on the service life of the sheeting. Our highway maintenance system is divided up so that an approximately equal number of signs could be replaced each year. Only one service life can be used to represent all signs and replace signs with a lower service life. For example, if the lowest service life is assumed to be seven years, then the highway system would be divided into seven sections. All the signs in a given section would be replaced once every seven years.

  • Sign Inspection Method

    In this method, a physical sign inspection is conducted periodically, preferably on an annual basis and at night. Those signs that have questionable retro-reflectivity performance are identified for further evaluation with a retro-reflectometer. On a second trip in the daytime, the retro-reflectivity of the questionable signs is measured. Those that do not meet the minimums are identified for replacement. Since only those signs that are below the minimum values are replaced, there is no salvage value (replaced signs cannot be reused). This method requires three trips to the field: one to conduct the initial nighttime visual inspection, one to measure questionable signs, and the third to replace the signs. This seems to be the least costly method of maintenance.

  • Sign Management Method

    In this method, all signs are included in a computerized database that contains detailed information about the sign and the sign installation. The sign management system predicts when a sign should reach the end of its service life. The list of signs needing replacement is then used to order/fabricate the necessary signs and perform the replacement. When this method is utilized, it requires the least number of personnel.

Damaged or Missing Signs

If you notice any signage that is damaged or missing, please contact our County Highways Division at (301) 475-4200 or fill out our on-line Maintenance Request Form.


Beginning in 1999, identification / dating stickers will be placed on the back of all newly installed signs to denote St. Mary's County Department of Public Works ownership and to date the installation for use in the Program's inspection and replacement database. A vandalism warning specifically stating that "It is unlawful to remove or detach any official road sign or traffic control device-punishable by fine and/or imprisonment" is also affixed. It is requested that anyone aware of or witnessing any damage to road signs immediately report same to the Department.

Program 402 Funding

Maryland State rural counties are eligible for participation in the Maryland Department of Transportation's funding for Traffic Regulatory and Warning Sign Replacement monies. The program was established by the MDOT to improve traffic safety, operation and capacity of rural county roads via the systematic improvement, fabrication and replacement of existing traffic signage. Street and/or road name signs are not eligible as a part of the funding appropriation, which is limited to $60,000 per jurisdiction. In the Spring of 1998, the required County-wide sign inventory was performed and the respective replacement documentation completed. On April 14, 1998 the Department submitted the FHWA FY '98 Highway Safety Grant Program Application which was subsequently approved in the amount of $24,122. The County received 989 signs and sign supports from the State Highway Administration in March 1999 which must be installed by County crews within a subsequent three (3) month period. A Maintenance Plan for the new signage in regards to monitoring and future replacement (at County expense) for at least a five (5) year period is also required.

MUTCD Specifications

Being consistent with signs and markings – using the same types in similar situations – is critical in the effective use of traffic control devices. Sight distance, alignment and placement of any sign must be in accordance with general traffic engineering practices and in compliance with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), first published by the FHWA in 1927 Through the Federal Register , the Federal Highway Administration requires that Counties maintain compliance with the Manual and has established a series of compliance deadlines, most of which have been phased-in through December 22, 2013.