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Hundreds of ACHD street signs failed prematurely, replacement underway

You’ll see it at the stoplight at 11th St. and Front St.

And Eagle Rd. and Fairview Ave.

And ParkCenter Blvd. and Bown Way.

And Chinden Blvd. and Linder St.

And at 200 other places across Ada County.

Failed street signs.

Cracked. Peeling. Hard to read.

BoiseDev first noticed the problem almost six months ago – and after a thorough tour of the county, it is apparent that the issue is occurring broadly across the territory managed by the Ada County Highway District. Signs facing south are especially prone to the issue – but overhead signs facing east and west also have problems.

[2019: The new-ish Broadway bridge had problems. Here’s an update on repairs]

Newer signs failing

The problems don’t seem to impact older signs, but rather newer-style green street signs installed in recent years.

While ACHD says its aware of the issue – it says it doesn’t know what caused it.

“We’re not positive what has caused the issues,” district spokesperson Natalie Shaver told BoiseDev. “We haven’t had any manufacturers acknowledge that this was an issue they have seen other places. Our best guess is that manufacturing processes changed about 12 years ago to use more environmentally friendly chemicals and processes which have resulted in this.”

Shaver said that “around 60” signalized intersections have the failed signs, with more than 200 signs with issues. Older signs with street names in “ALL CAPS” are not failing – while signs replaced eight to twelve years ago are seeing the issues, according to shaver.

Taxpayers will foot the bill to replace all the signs. The cost of materials is about $50,000 according to Shaver, and work the swap them out started in 2019 – and will take several years to complete.

[New bikeway on Boise Bench coming soon]

Not a safety issue

ACHD street signs
The overhead sign at Apple St & Insignia Dr. is one of about 200 failed signs across Ada County. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The district says the failed signs don’t pose a safety issue, however.

“Street name signs are informational signs so they do not create a safety issue for motorists as a missing or damaged stop sign would,” Shaver said. “While the reflectivity of the street name signs is still sufficient, it can be difficult to read them.”

Shaver said ACHD expects the signs to last about 12 years, and the failures are showing up when the signs reach about eight years of age – meaning they are only lasting about two-thirds as long as expected.

She also acknowledged some smaller non-overhead signs have issues and will need to be replaced. Some of those signs, typically on more minor street intersections, also show signs of failure. The district does not have a firm grasp on how many of these signs are failed, as there are 350,000 of them across the county.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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