They’re everywhere ― on street corners, in intersections and even in city parks: street signs, large and small. Less visible, though, is the City of Irving team charged with creating the signs that keep travelers informed on the roads: the sign shop, part of the Traffic Division within the Transportation Department. The shop not only creates traffic signs, but also assists in manufacturing any other official city sign that other departments need or request.
Tucked away between other city-owned buildings at 128 N. Briery Street, Irving’s sign shop is the birthplace of most official street signs within city limits, from speed limit and stop signs to logos and decals on official city vehicles.
On average, about 3,500 street signs originate from the sign shop each year. The majority of the signs fabricated are replacement signs that need to be updated to accommodate federal and state guidelines.
One of the larger, long-term projects the group is working on is the unfunded federal mandate to replace every street name sign in Irving with new signs that are highly reflective and have larger letters. This new regulation also requires signs to have lower and uppercase letters, unlike the previous signs that required all capital letters. To tackle the project, the Traffic Division has divided the city into 24 sections. Over the next decade, the department will go through each section and replace the signs with the federally compliant signs. Rest assured, every resident will see the new signs in due time.
Staff in the sign shop also assists in conducting the city’s annual traffic count, which helps the department monitor and improve traffic flow. The city’s traffic engineers select more than 90 locations to measure annually throughout Irving and they study the number of vehicles that use the roads each day.
Traffic engineering technicians, with help from the sign shop technicians, choose the appropriate roadway locations to place tubes and ensure accurate data collection. This work may seem simple, but in reality, it’s difficult because staff must negotiate setting up the tube counters on active roadways. This is challenging work to even the most skilled traffic crew member. With that in mind, it’s important for drivers to slow down and be cautious around workers in all traffic work zones.
How Signs Are Made
Signs are composed of colored vinyl mounted on metal plates of the appropriate size. The city’s Traffic Department purchases the raw materials and uses it to create the various signs, always taking into account federal guidelines and regulations. The department also keeps a small inventory of ready-made signs to be used in an emergency, in accordance with the Transportation Department’s Continuity of Operations Plan.
The sign making process for both custom and regulated traffic signs:
- The sign shop receives an approved image illustrating what the sign should look like.
- The image is recreated using computer software that scales graphics and text to the actual size. The image is sent to a plotter, a large machine with a tiny, sharp knife that cuts the outline of the letters in seconds. The plotter is preloaded with vinyl of the appropriate color and the illustration is printed.
- After the letters or images are cut out of the vinyl, the extra material must be removed by hand, in a process called weeding. The signs are now beginning to take shape. Next, the letters and images are covered by another clear plastic material that helps transfer the vinyl letters to the metal plate.
- Staff places the vinyl on the metal plate of the appropriate size. The vinyl must be carefully aligned with the edges of the metal plate.
- The sign is run through a roller that applies extreme pressure and permanently secures the all-weather vinyl onto the metal.
- Once completed, the new sign is ready for installation by crews in the Traffic Operation Division.
Top: The city keeps an inventory of ready-made signs on hand for immediate needs.
Bottom: A sign shop technician removes the extra vinyl during the weeding process.