Berlin’s roadmaster turns signmaster

Posted 8/21/19

BEACH LAKE, PA –“More and more street signs are disappearing; what, if anything is being done about it?” The question was posed by a woman in the gallery during the public …

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Berlin’s roadmaster turns signmaster


BEACH LAKE, PA –“More and more street signs are disappearing; what, if anything is being done about it?” The question was posed by a woman in the gallery during the public participation segment of the August 19 Berlin Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

In reply, supervisor and roadmaster Cathy Hunt pointed to a pile of sign blanks lying on the table, as she said, “We found it’s cheaper to make our own signs than to have them printed.” Adding that she will be devoting more time to that project as soon as she has cleared the work currently on her desk, she said, “We’re looking for volunteers to help. Are you interested?”

Hunt’s question was apparently taken by the gallery to be rhetorical, as no one volunteered. But the woman who raised the issue asked the board if it has taken any steps to stop the theft of street signs.

Supervisor and roadmaster Rob Mahon explained that the problem is not new. Street signs have been disappearing from area roads for years. Although various preventive strategies have been tried, none has been successful, so far.

What started as an occasional teenage lark has become a bona fide local sport—a dangerous and costly one, concedes Mahon. Stop signs are among the most coveted trophies.

Street name signs are increasingly popular with thieves. Their absence, too, can be dangerous as well as confusing and inconvenient, especially to newcomers and tourists. And that is what Hunt is working to replace.

“Did you get the specifications from PennDOT?” asked supervisor and roadmaster Charlie Gries.
“Right here,” said Hunt, producing a sheet of specifications for D3-1 (street name) signs obtained from the state’s road management agency. The first directive on that sheet: “The D3-1 sign should be placed at all street intersections, regardless of other route marking that may be present. Mounting instructions follow, with sign orientation and placement in relation to curb lines specified to the nearest foot.

Size, spacing, case (upper or lower) and reflectivity of sign letters are determined by road-posted speed limits. So Hunt must know the speed limits on each road before making a sign for it. “On multi-lane streets with speed limits greater than 40 mph, the letter on post-mounted D3-1 signs should be composed of initial upper-case letters at least eight inches in height and lower-case letters at least six inches in height.”

Most Berlin Township roads are classified as local. Per the specification sheet, “For roads functionally classified as local, with speed limits of 25 mph or less, the lettering may be four-inch upper class/lower class.”

With the prospect of deterring or apprehending thieves so remote, Hunt should probably add signmaster to her supervisor and roadmaster titles. And maybe, instead of making signs, placing them on roads and waiting for thieves to take them, she should just accept orders from would-be thieves for the specific sign(s) they want, charging them enough to make a small profit for the township.


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