How much do traffic signs cost?

I read with great interest this week about the City of Edmonton’s new residential speed reduction pilot. Speed limits have been on my radar since late last year when Patricia Grell of the Woodcroft community started her Safe Speed Limits blog. She and many others have been pushing for a reduction to 30km/h on residential streets. The pilot goes half way, to 40km/h, and will take place in six Edmonton neighbourhoods: Woodcroft, Beverley Heights, Ottewell, King Edward Park, Westridge/Wolf Willow and Twin Brooks.

Those communities were selected based on “the extent of the speeding problem” as well as traffic volume, the number of playgrounds and schools, etc. The City consulted with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues to identify community leagues that would be willing to participate. EFCL Executive Director Allan Bolstad told me that community leagues will act as the “window into the neighbourhoods”, both to help inform and educate, as well as gather feedback on how well the program is working. He said the community leagues will meet mid-March to start implementation, and will continue to meet regularly to evaluate.

The City of Edmonton already has traffic safety programs of course, and they will be integrated into the pilot. Specifically, Speed Watch (which shows drivers their speed), Neighbourhood Pace Cars (vehicles that act as mobile speed bumps), and Safe Speed Community Vans will all be used. Dan Jones from the City’s Office of Traffic Safety said there will also be digital readout speed trailers (like the ones you see at construction sites) and of course, new traffic signs.

He also confirmed that the projected cost for the pilot is $100,000 per neighbourhood. I’m in favor of reducing speed limits, if only so that police officers can ticket people at 50km/h instead of the current 60km/h, but when I heard that figure I thought it sounded rather expensive. Allan Bolstad said he too was “puzzled” by the amount. If I understand things correctly, only the signs are new – the other programs already exist and presumably already have the appropriate funding. Which begs the question – how much do traffic signs cost?

To find out, I talked to Rick MacAdams from Edmonton-based hi signs. They manufacture a wide range of signs, including the speed limit signs you’d see around town. Their speed limit sign, the RB-1, comes in two versions: one with a high intensity reflective film and one with a “diamond grade” reflective film (both films are 3M products). The first costs $76.70 per sign while the diamond grade one costs $109.38. That’s if you’re buying one or two signs; there are discounts for large volume orders, of course.

Next question – how many signs are required in each neighbourhood? I decided to go to Google Maps, to count the number of straight street segments in a couple of the neighbourhoods. I took that number, and multiplied it by two (so we have signs for each direction). The range I came up with was between 60 and 120 signs per neighbourhood. You can probably do the math, but at 120 signs per neighbourhood, using the highest price per sign, the total comes to $13,125.60 per neighbourhood. So a grand total for the pilot of $78,753.60. Nowhere close to the $100,000 per neighbourhood that has been projected!

Now this back-of-the-napkin analysis leaves a number of things out. For one, the time and cost required to have crews post the signs in each neighbourhood. For another, the cost of the digital speed readout trailers. There will also likely be marketing costs. But it also leaves out the fact that the City of Edmonton has its own sign creation department, so the cost per sign is probably far less than what hi signs would charge. And my analysis probably significantly overestimates the number of signs required for each neighbourhood.

So I’m left happy but confused and maybe even a little alarmed. Happy that the City has heard residents and is testing residential speed limit reductions to see if it improves community safety. Confused because I can’t imagine why this pilot will cost $600,000.