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Report on Highway Guide Sign Fonts

Prepared by:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Transportation Operations

Executive Summary


This report was directed by the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which was enacted on March 23, 2018. That direction was in response to the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) termination of Interim Approval No. 5 (IA-5) of the Clearview font on highway guide signs. The termination rescinded the provisional allowance of the use of a particular letter style other than FHWA Standard Alphabets on traffic control devices except as provided otherwise in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) and within the IA-5 memorandum. Twenty-six States had been granted interim approval, but the termination affected only 13 States. The other 13 States either did not implement Clearview and, instead, retained the use of the Standard Alphabets, or had previously discontinued its use after a limited trial.1 Thus, 38 State-level Departments of Transportation (DOT), including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, were not using Clearview under the Interim Approval and were using only the Standard Alphabets. This information is summarized in Table 2.4 of the report.

The FHWA noted in its termination that the presence and availability of two separate letter styles with differing criteria for use had resulted in significant confusion and inconsistency in sign design, fabrication processes, and application, with no overall practical improvement. After the publication of the termination, FHWA received comments from stakeholders suggesting that FHWA should have solicited public comment prior to the termination. Other comments suggested that FHWA did not consider all relevant research that was available in making its decision. As a result, FHWA published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register (81 FR 89889) to gather any information or research that FHWA might not have been aware of when the termination was prepared.

The purpose of the report is to:


The following summarizes the findings in this report.

Actions Taken by FHWA since Enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 On March 28, 2018, the FHWA reinstated the previously terminated Interim Approval No. 5 allowing the optional use of the Clearview letter style for positive-contrast legends on guide signs. This reinstatement allowed jurisdictions that had approval to use IA-5 prior to the January 25, 2016, termination to immediately start reusing Clearview per the provisions of the Interim Approval and the previously issued Design and Use Policy for Clearview Alphabet.2 Per Section 1A.10 of the MUTCD, States and jurisdictions seeking permission to use the provisions of an Interim Approval for the first time must submit a written request to the FHWA and receive approval prior to use. The FHWA also posted responses to frequently asked questions related to the reinstatement and use of Interim Approval No. 5 on the MUTCD Web site.3 Finally, the FHWA prepared and submitted this report. A timeline of actions related to the Clearview Interim Approval is provided in Table 2.3 of the report.

1 One State reported discontinuing use after nearly a ten-year implementation due to challenges with compliance and the need for more extensive staff support to correct ongoing inappropriate use. [Return to Note 1]

2 Design and Use Policy for Clearview Alphabet can be accessed at the following Web address: [Return to Note 2]

3 Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Reinstatement of Interim Approval No. 5 – Clearview Font for Positive Contrast Legends on Guide Signs can be accessed at the following Web site: [Return to Note 3]

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