Perhaps it should also be noted that cities are favored over counties for state-aid by a wide margin meaning counties are pretty much left on their own. It is telling in the way that consolidated city-counties and larger cities tend to do a much better job with traffic control even in high population areas. In fact, Tennessee has been second only to Georgia in their push to consolidate city and county governments indicating that there is definitely a funding problem for counties.
Tennessee also has some of the most mountainous terrain in the United States, so this makes rural county roads particularly dangerous. TDOT also functionally classifies all local roads outside of urbanized areas with no classification higher than "minor collector", which makes the former federal-aid secondary roads apparently ineligible for federal-aid. By extension this makes it more difficult to invest in improvements on the most heavily traveled county roads. With sharp curves, steep drop-offs and often narrow roadways without any shoulders these are the roads that should have the most safety upgrades. In geometry, they are quite similar to Virginia's secondary state roads except for the dearth of adequate safety improvements.
Since Tennessee is among the worst states for MUTCD compliance on local roadways, a large number of counties will eventually be featured on the "shoddy signs spotlight" feature of this site. While this is likely to offend these counties and cities who do this, they may not even be aware that there is a problem. It is hoped that seeing this will inspire them to consider strategies like those proposed on this blog to fix these issues. Counties will not be the only thing shown, though as municipalities in most states actually have far more issues than the counties.
- The advisory speed posted does not appear to have actually been determined properly (ball-bank study). The way that it is posted for the W1-2L curve southbound but the W1-5L winding road northbound is misleading. Likely the advisory speed would be higher.
- The curve in the first two photos is posted as a curve southbound, but it is posted as a turn northbound. You can't have two different types of curve warning signs in different directions marking the same condition. If the 15 MPH advisory speed is correct, then only W1-1 turn signs should be posted.
- Warning signs posted are 24" signs. While this was still compliant when these signs were posted, this is no longer a compliant practice to use 24" signs for curve warning situations.
- "SLOW" signs are posted. Slow (formerly W42-2) is a removed MUTCD sign and are basically useless as a warning sign giving a vague message to drivers. It was removed from the MUTCD in 1961. At least in this instance it was included with a 15 MPH advisory speed although better ways to enhance the sign could be used such as orange diamonds, flashing beacons and larger signs.
- The signs look cluttered. While overlapping of warning and advisory signs is not expressly forbidden, it has a knack for making signs look less important and thus less noticeable and more difficult to read. Most likely this was done, because the county did not specify anything higher than an 8' direct-driven post. It is known that many rural counties lack sign trucks and thus are unable to post taller signs.
- The post height is way too low. On the clustered curve/slow/advisory combos, the bottom of the signs almost touches the ground. Rural applications are supposed to have a minimum of 5' above the edge of pavement per the MUTCD. In no way is this the case here where signposts appear to be near uniformly no more than 5-6' above the ground county-wide. The reasons are specified in #5 above.
- The southbound curve sign in the first image is not MUTCD-spec. This non-standard W1-2 design was applied county-wide with at least half of the curve signs posted with that look. This was likely either an in-house job or a purchase from a sign vendor that was not state-approved (or not properly reviewed for compliance). Many of the cheaper sign vendors produce traffic signs with designs that are not in compliance with the MUTCD.
- As typically noted statewide, the lines on the roadways are faded out and need to be re-striped.
- The double arrow sign posted at the junction of Cat Creek Road and Rutledge Falls Road is bolted to a tree and warped by tree growth. It also has incorrect design and dimensions.
- Stop signs (not shown) are 24" x 24" and are no longer compliant needing replacement with standard 30" x 30" signs.
Powers Bridge Road west of Manchester features a very dangerous situation with the guardrail on the left side lacking any anchor whatsoever located very close to the edge of the roadway. The background sign is also incorrect using a T-intersection sign (W2-4) instead of the appropriate W2-2. Also note the faded out condition of the lines on the roadway. If full road striping is too costly then at least the centerline should be well-maintained. (Google Maps)
Old Woodbury Highway north of Gowan Road has W1-8 chevrons posted on the wrong side of the road and posted incorrectly. This is a 90 degree turn. Behind this only a W1-1 turn sign is used (no advisory). (Google Maps)
These non-standard curve signs were found county-wide a decade ago, and are still found in most areas of the county. This sign was noted on Wayside Road east of Pete Sain Rd. They do not have a correct design and were loosely applied to nearly every condition that involved a curve. As noted in the background, chevrons are posted. Chevrons are usually posted if the curve has an advisory speed 10 or more miles less than the roadway. (Google Maps)
- ENGINEERING STUDY: Hire a PTOE or traffic engineering firm with a PTOE to review all of the county's signs and guardrails with priority given to roadways designated collector or arterial. This should include a traffic study that corrects every engineering issue and details modifications whether or not funding is available to fix them.
- POST HEIGHT: Correct post height issues throughout the county. Signs need to be much higher than they are posted now so that they at least comply with the 5' minimum clearance. The cheapest short-term way to do this is to take the existing posts, pull them out of the ground and install a 3' soil anchor cleaning off the base of the taller post. This will automatically add 3' in post height.
- TDOT STANDARDS: Adopt TDOT standards including purchasing signs only from state-approved vendors to correct sign issues.
- TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TRAINING: Send employees involved with installation, layout and maintenance of traffic control devices to seminars to learn how to do it correctly.
- INSPECTION: Have an engineering consultant annually spot inspect traffic control devices for errors.
- MUTCD STANDARDS: Follow MUTCD standards when installing and replacing any sign. This means at the very least make sure signs comply with designs in the Standard Highway Signs manual and that sign dimensions comply with the charts in the MUTCD.
- FUNDING/REPLACEMENT SCHEDULE: Continue to use state/federal help whenever possible and budget an annual zone installation/replacement schedule on roads that received traffic engineering studies.
- DATA INVENTORY: Inventory all new signs installed with GIS mapping and GPS coordinates.
- GUARDRAIL SAFETY: Replace dangerous guardrails and guardrail anchors county-wide.
- BRIDGE RAILS: Improve bridge rails with either guardrail treatments, repairs or new railing. Using surplus railing is acceptable as long as it has proper breakway anchors, is installed correctly and is not too low. If the railing is concrete, contract with the state for those repairs.
- COOPERATIVE MAINTENANCE: Develop a regional traffic control cooperative based on the planning region with adjacent counties and cities for layout, installation, fabrication and maintenance of traffic signs, guardrails and pavement markings. If TDOT offers, hire them as a contractor to maintain these items on behalf of the county.
- SERVICE SWAPPING WITH TDOT: Broker a service swap agreement with TDOT that amounts to the county providing specific road maintenance services on behalf of the state in turn for an equivalent amount of traffic control maintenance on county roads.