Originally posted April 30, 2014

New signs on local highways may have a new look, but not one that you may notice.

In a recent request by Grays Harbor County, the Federal Highway Administration said that they will no longer be using Clearview as the font for new highway signs. The font style, used by cities across the country as well as the Department of Transportation, will no longer be allowed on any signs.

It is not the official font recommended for use by the FHWA, and states were required to request interim approval from the Federal Highway Administration to use it in their signage.

Neil Gaffney, Public Affairs Specialist for the Federal Highway Administration tells KXRO, “We plan on rescinding the interim approval altogether and are not approving further use of the font anywhere going forward.”

The font was the only federally approved alternative to the existing FHWA Standard Alphabets, intended to provide a more visible look for signs. In use since 2004, Testing found that Clearview was 2 to 8% more legible in daytime and nighttime viewing than the Highway Gothic font style that was the standard on overhead signs, particularly benefiting older drivers, with a 6% increase in legibility distance.

Gaffney said that the FHWA has provided interim approvals for Clearview, thinking that it would be an improvement over the standard fonts, but that the narrower alphabet did not provide enough benefits, and that the critical factor nighttime visibility and legibility was mostly based on retroreflective sheeting, not the font.

“We’re working with Grays Harbor County to help them provide appropriate signs based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which sets minimum standards and provides guidance on road signs to reduce accidents and improve mobility on roads.”

According to Aberdeen Public Works Director Malcolm Bowie, the city only uses the FHWA Standard Alphabet and not Clearview.

The font is still used elsewhere, and was adopted as the standard typeface for signs in the province of British Columbia in 2006. Numerous other fonts are approved for use throughout the state for signage, such as Parks.

South Aberdeen sign in Highway Gothic font
South Aberdeen sign in Highway Gothic font

Clearview vs Highway Gothic

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