HARRISBURG – They are everywhere … stop signs, yield signs, deer crossing signs and many other types of highway signs helping to guide drivers. PennDOT replaces between 80,000 and
90,000 highway signs every year and each one is produced by a 15-person shop in Harrisburg.
“Clear and effective signing is an essential part of the services PennDOT provides to hundreds of thousands of motorists every day,” PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. said. “The commonwealth is fortunate to have a highly-skilled and efficient PennDOT sign shop where workers produce more than 5,500 signs each.”
From large, overhead signs used on interstates to speed limit signs, the sign shop produces all types of signs used on state roads in the commonwealth, including the turnpike. The most commonly produced sign is the stop sign.
The manufacturing process for a typical stop sign starts with a piece of aluminum, pre-cut into the shape of the sign. Workers apply white, reflective sheeting to the sign blank and then transparent red ink is silk screened over the white sheeting – which makes the sign reflective, particularly at night. Once silk screened, the sign passes through an oven to dry the ink.
When fully dried, the sign is stacked vertically stored in a shipping area until it is ready to be delivered to the PennDOT district where it will be used.
It takes about 15 minutes and costs approximately $22 for PennDOT to produce one stop sign, including labor and materials. Additionally, it costs the department about $150 to install a stop sign.
Although silk screening is the most common method of producing signs, nearly 10,000 signs are produced by hand with employees applying the sign background, cutting individual letters and placing each one by hand. Hand-made signs are most commonly used for those that indicate a specific mileage such as “Winding Road Next 3 Miles,” or location-specific information.
PennDOT has at least one sign crew in each county working year-round to install and maintain highway signs. Signs are replaced when they are heavily-faded, damaged or stolen.
PennDOT estimates that there are some 1 million signs in use in the commonwealth.