In the early 20th century in Merion Township, wooden signs gave way to cast-irnon markers of “distinctive design” — a template that landscape architect Frederick Olmsted Jr. would use as he planned communities across the country.
Now, as reported in the Inquirer, the landscape might be changing due to a new law. The Federal Highway Administration has issued regulations requiring bigger, more-readable road-name signs by 2018. Lower Merion Township opposes the change based on cost and the right to preserve its historic landscape.
Other Pennsylvania communities, including West Chester and New Hope, are also grappling with the federal demand. Their signs aren’t historic, but replacing them would sap money and manpower they say they can’t afford. Other municipalities across the country are weighing in with their own concerns.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement late last year that the regulations were not timely and should be revisited, but that might not do Lower Merion Township much good. As stated in the Inquirer article, when the highway administration updated standards for road and highway signs in 2009, it set firm deadlines; failure to comply could jeopardize federal dollars flowing through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for local projects.