Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) arrows logo

Report on Highway Guide Sign Fonts

4.0 Safety and Cost Implications of Termination of IA-5

One of the provisions in the Joint Explanatory Statement was to document the safety and cost implications of the decision to terminate approval of Clearview font. These implications are difficult to quantify at this point in time, however the following sections contain qualitative information.

4.1 Safety Implications

There are no known negative safety implications related to the termination of IA-5. Although some research suggests improved legibility of signs with Clearview font, the differences in sign sheeting, letter heights, research methods, etc., make it difficult to draw a direct correlation between the use of Clearview font and improved safety on roads open to public travel. As a result, terminating the use of Clearview font did not have a negative impact on public safety. Given the widespread misapplication of Clearview, in part, due to the complexities of having two completely differing systems and criteria, the termination was expected to have a positive impact on uniformity in sign designs and performance, and, ultimately, positively impact safety through operational efficiency.

4.2 Cost Implications

The termination did not create a mandate for the removal or installation of any sign. Existing signs with Clearview font that comply with the Interim Approval were unaffected by the termination and were allowed to remain as long as they are in serviceable condition. The termination did not amend any provisions within the MUTCD.

The 13 States using Clearview font at the time of the termination had to make provisions for discontinuing its use. As indicated in the Technical Memorandum,20 FHWA provided flexibility for States to implement the termination. States were allotted discretion in implementing the change for projects or signs that were in the process of design or fabrication, as well as for updating design manuals, standards, and other documents. Any costs associated with these changes are incidental to routine program administration. The change was communicated within agencies through departmental memorandum or directive. Eventually, design manuals and standard documents would have to be updated to reflect this change. However, these changes typically occur on a periodic cycle that then incorporates any of the departmental memoranda or directives that have been issued since the previous update of the design manual and standard documents. Therefore, these costs are incidental to the overall cost of the periodic updates. It should be emphasized that the termination of Clearview did not involve a wholesale change from one font to another because the Standard Alphabets were still required for use in the majority of signing applications, regardless of whether a State adopted Clearview for its guide signs. As stated earlier, Clearview had very limited applicability, making the sign design process actually more complex rather than simpler. There was no inherent cost in reverting to the Standard Alphabets exclusively because the States already had the associated software and other tools to design and fabricate signs using the Standard Alphabets.

Incremental costs associated with using the Clearview font are estimated in Table 4.1. The destination names on the sample signs used in this analysis are based on the most common postal address names in the United States.21 The sample sign legends represent up to the maximum amount of information recommended in the MUTCD,22 ranging between one destination with a distance message, and two destinations, a route number, and a distance message. There are no practical cost impacts associated with the termination of the Clearview Interim Approval, which results in a net cost savings.

Table 4.1. Incremental Costs of Sign Panels Using Clearview Letter Style.
Item Quantity
or Unit
Incremental Cost1, 2
Standard Alphabets Clearview
Sign Design Software 1 - 1003 Base Base
Standard Alphabets Electronic Font4 1 - 1003 $0 $0
Electronic Font4
1 - 1003 N/A $800 - $15,000
Sign Panel5 8 - 20 S.F. Base $200 - $1,200
per Sign


  1. Costs are for a State transportation agency. Additional costs for design consultants and commercial sign manufacturers are not included.
  2. Additional costs for sign support structures could not be estimated due to variabilities in design standards among the States. Larger signs would result in the need to replace existing sign support structures in cases in which there is no additional structural capacity in the existing sign support structure.
  3. 100 units for electronic software based on data from a large State.
  4. Typical highway sign design and production software packages include the Standard Alphabet electronic fonts at no additional cost.
  5. Sign panel costs are for a typical freeway guide sign displaying 1 to 2 destinations, distance message, and route marker as shown in Figure 4.1. Unit cost ranges between $25 and $60 per square foot of sign area and varies based on region and size of project. Incremental cost shown is for a single sign. Incremental cost of sign is due to increased size resulting from larger lettering and interline and edge spacing resulting from the use of Clearview font.
Two road signs on top of each other with green background and white writing.  The signs read: 1) Exit 40, 2) Clinton 2 Miles Two road signs on top of each other with green background and white lettering.  The signs read: 1) Exit 40, 2) Springfield Clinton 2 Miles. Two road signs on top of each other with green background and white lettering.  The signs read: 1) Exit 40, 2) Interstate 56 symbol followed by Springfield Clinton 2 Miles.

Figure 4.1. Typical Freeway Guide Sign Legends Used for Cost Analysis.

You may need the Adobe® Reader® to view the PDFs on this page.

20 Technical Memorandum can be accessed at the following Web address: [Return to Note 20]

21 United States Postal Service. "Ten Most Common Post Office Names in 2017" can be accessed at the following Web address: [Return to Note 21]

22 MUTCD, 2009 Edition, § 2E.10, "Amount of Legend on Guide Signs." [Return to Note 22]

Previous | Next