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Chester County Press

Chester County preparing to replace highway signage

08/08/2023 02:50PM ● By Richard Gaw

A design concept for upgrading wayfinding signage throughout the county is currently being developed by Chester County Tourism.  Image courtesy of Chester County Tourism 

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

Chester County forms a generous chunk of southeastern Pennsylvania, whose infrastructure – extending from its grandest tourist attractions to its historic towns and districts – is a blueprint both of acknowledgement, achievement, preservation, adaptability and constant change.

Now, for the first time in decades, the well-placed signage that helps people get to these places is about to get in step with the places they promote.

In a presentation before the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors on Aug. 2, Chester County Tourism Executive Director Susan Hamley provided an overview of the county’s plans to begin a wayfinding signage initiative that will introduce newly-designed signage throughout major corridors and transportation corridors.

The impetus to develop new signage, Hamley said, stems from the fact that all current signage is out of compliance with PennDOT regulations.

“They were first created in the 1980s, and there is nothing about them that works anymore,” she said. “They are fading, they are falling down and there is no reflective lettering. They have too many characters. They are on the wrong side of the road, and too many are covered by bushes and trees and too close to the ground.”

Hamley said that there are also many intersections in the county where several of the signs appear, which leads to motorist/tourist confusion.

“This does not reflect who we are,” she said. “Our goal is to de-clutter, not to add more signs.”

The project’s objective will be to create as many as 100 signs, and is being done in consultation with West Chester-based Merje Design, an environmental graphic design firm, and in collaboration with the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is also seeking to upgrade its signage throughout northern Delaware.

The new signs will be constructed in various shapes and sizes based on where they will be placed on county roads, and will be consistent in design and color. (Cobalt blue is an initial option, but is subject to PennDOT requirements.)

They will direct drivers to downtowns and historic districts; arboretums and gardens; corporate tours; parks and nature conservatories; information, sports and entertainment centers; museums; and agri-tourism locations, such as wineries and breweries. Hamley said that while the new signs are not intended to replace modern-day GPS technology, their purpose will be to serve as a highway marker to promote each destination.

“Everyone has a GPS in their vehicles that enables them to get from Point A to Point B, but while they’re driving past these signs, they notice that there is a winery, a history museum, and places to come back to,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do -- to get people to come to our county, enjoy it, spend the night and come back again.”

Hamley estimated that the cost of the wayfinding project is estimated at $800,000, which will be partially offset by a $204,000 grant the county expects to receive from PennDOT, providing that the contribution is matched by next March. She is scheduled to present similar presentations to several other area municipalities, who are all required to be classified as a signing district, but will not have any fiscal responsibility for the project.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].