Shapes, colors, words and symbols are a part of the message of signs produced by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Central Sign Shop

About 20,000 signs are made at the Oklahoma state sign shop each fiscal year
by Bryan Painter Published: September 2, 2012

When he was moving along at 75 mph, the size of the turnpike speed limit signs wasn't a big deal to Marco White.

Then life slowed — to a standstill.

White walked over for a closer look at one of those signs when he began working at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Central Sign Shop.

“They're huge,” said White, who is now the sign shop manager. “They're 4 feet by 5 feet, and you wouldn't know that if you're driving on the road.”

On interstates, the speed limit signs are also 4 feet by 5 feet. But on a two-lane highway like State Highway 74 in northwest Oklahoma County, a speed limit sign is 2 feet by 2½ feet. And on a four-lane highway like the Broadway Extension, speed limit signs are 3 feet by 4 feet.

“It's that difference in speed,” he said.

Although summer trips are coming to an end, highway travel is by no means over, with school activities, holidays and other reasons for taking to the road still ahead, said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. That brings an opportunity for motorists to better understand the signs they see daily.

About 20,000 signs are produced at the state sign shop each fiscal year, White said. Seeing that many could lead White to say a sign is a sign. Fortunately he doesn't. Instead he likes to point out what motorists might have missed. For example, a driver might think a sign conveys one message in only one way.

Actually, White can name a few ways rather quickly: color, shape and words/symbols.

“Colors are a great indicator of what information you're going to see,” he said.

Red is prohibitive. White is regulatory.

“And fluorescent yellow-green is the new color for schools,” he said.

Shapes are an indicator of the type of message the sign represents.

Octagonal is a stop sign. Pentagons are school signs.

Replacement of signs

There are eight statewide field division offices that can request a new sign. The reasons vary. A stop sign for instance may have been mangled by an accident or by a tornado.

But the most common reason for replacement is wear, White said.

“Field divisions check signs at night, because in the daytime it might look great,” he said. “At night, if it's an older sign, then the reflectivity is not there.


by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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They're huge. They're 4 feet by 5 feet, and you wouldn't know that if you're driving on the road.”

Marco White

Manager of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Central Sign Shop, on the size of turnpike road signs

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