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White-On-Black Signage:

Started by thenetwork, March 06, 2010, 11:08:59 AM

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thenetwork

While watching an old TV show, this little question came to mind:

There used to be a few states back in the 50's, 60's & 70's that regularly used black signs with white lettering on area roads & freeways.  The ones I know of are:

CALIFORNIA:  Freeway Guide Signs, Speed Limit Signs, One-Way Signs...
MISSOURI:  Some Freeway Guide Signs -- usually found on the shoulders of freeways.
MICHIGAN:  Freeway Guide Signs (50's), and most shoulder signs on surface streets (Upcoming streets, Michigan Left signs, Right Turn Only signs, etc...)

1) What other states also used white-on-black signs regularly?
2) What year(s) did they begin to get phased out? (In my travels over the last 2 decades, I assume they all have been phased out).
3) Are there any that still remain?

:confused:


Alps

See the bottom of my I-84 West of Hartford (CT) page.  That one's still out there.  Some people mistakenly think the NJ Turnpike used white on black, but it actually used dark green.  One that I believe is still out there is in Rhode Island by RI 10 (again, scroll to the bottom).

J N Winkler

Quote from: thenetwork on March 06, 2010, 11:08:59 AMThere used to be a few states back in the 50's, 60's & 70's that regularly used black signs with white lettering on area roads & freeways.  The ones I know of are:

CALIFORNIA:  Freeway Guide Signs, Speed Limit Signs, One-Way Signs...
MISSOURI:  Some Freeway Guide Signs -- usually found on the shoulders of freeways.
MICHIGAN:  Freeway Guide Signs (50's), and most shoulder signs on surface streets (Upcoming streets, Michigan Left signs, Right Turn Only signs, etc...)

The standard color scheme for guide signs was white and black until 1971.  Interstate signs were white on green from the very beginning (1958), but there was no similar color requirement for guide signs on non-Interstates, including conventional roads, expressways, and non-Interstate freeways.  States did have the discretion to adopt other color schemes, and many did--California changed to white-on-green signing for all highways (not just Interstates) in 1958, and by 1964 there were 14 states which were using white-on-green signs with whole-panel retroreflectorization on conventional roads.

In regards to white-on-black regulatory signs, there used to be a provision allowing contrast reversal (positive contrast, meaning white on black, rather than the usual negative contrast) in order to allow the use of button reflectors without color clash.  I don't remember whether this was in the AASHO MUTCD or in the California traffic manual, or when it was removed, but I think it is highly unlikely it survived past 1971 because whole-panel retroreflectorization was adopted early for regulatory signs, which (with the exception of parking signs and the like) tend to be safety-critical.
"It is necessary to spend a hundred lire now to save a thousand lire later."--Piero Puricelli, explaining the need for a first-class road system to Benito Mussolini

agentsteel53

no, trust me Steve, NJTP used black.  The green you see is corrosion.  If you blow up the saturation and contrast of any photo you will have it turn to colors, but here, it is black.



CA started using black guide signs with reflectors in 1932, though the white ones were used alongside as well - including in the overhead-gantry configuration as late as 1949.  1949 is when all freeway-size signs went to black with white text.  Surface-level smaller signs remained white with black text as late as 1958, at which point everything was changed to the current green with white legend.

a lot of states used black signs with white legend, and every state used white signs with black legend.  There is, to this day, a black guide sign in Michigan in the Detroit area, and another in the UP... (near the one in the UP, is a white one with black legend!)  In California, you can find a handful still, including a pair of overheads that date to about 1951 in the Bay Area. 

as far as I know, the original Penna turnpike signs were all white with black legend.  The Conn turnpike and NY Thruway used blue with white legend, and I think the Mass Pike was green with white legend from the beginning.  Some NY parkways had white with black legend on the overheads, and as far as I know there is one surviving example.  Porcelain, no less!
live from sunny San Diego.

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Ian

The City of Media, PA uses white on black parking, school, and street signs. These are brand new, and Media likes to use black on anything.

UMaine graduate, former PennDOT employee, new SoCal resident.
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roadfro

As far as signs specifically mentioned in the national MUTCD (2003), Truck check stations could use white on black guide signs. Nevada's truck stations still use this scheme.

For California, you can add to the list signs denoting chain installation areas--at least along I-80 through the Sierras. They're small post-mounted signs, but still use the scheme.
Roadfro - AARoads Pacific Southwest moderator since 2010, Nevada roadgeek since 1983.

Alps

Quote from: agentsteel53 on March 06, 2010, 01:54:12 PM
no, trust me Steve, NJTP used black.  The green you see is corrosion.  If you blow up the saturation and contrast of any photo you will have it turn to colors, but here, it is black.

Jake, it is and was not black.  I don't know, since you're in California, but me being from New Jersey, I have been up close and personal with these signs many times.  You can see the brushstrokes, for one.  For another, they're absolutely green.

Alps

Quote from: roadfro on March 06, 2010, 05:53:47 PM
As far as signs specifically mentioned in the national MUTCD (2003), Truck check stations could use white on black guide signs. Nevada's truck stations still use this scheme.

For California, you can add to the list signs denoting chain installation areas--at least along I-80 through the Sierras. They're small post-mounted signs, but still use the scheme.
Yeah, I skipped over the still-permitted use, because there are a ton of those around, even with button copy.  Just pick the right state.

TheStranger

The one vintage pre-1958 white-on-black sign that remained in California for many years (though since replaced in the last 2-3 years) was along what was once US 101 in San Diego (the Pacific Highway freeway), an exit for "Roadside Business" that remained when the Montgomery Freeway (today's I-5, also at one point US 101) was built near Lindbergh Field.
Chris Sampang

US71

I vaguely remember those along I-44 in Missouri, back when it was still mostly US 66 (mid-late 60's).
Like Alice I Try To Believe Three Impossible Things Before Breakfast

hbelkins

Virginia uses white on black for a lot of its regulatory signs, especially the "Radar Detectors Prohibited" signage at state lines.


Government would be tolerable if not for politicians and bureaucrats.

Brandon

The Illinois Tollway used to use (until a couple of years ago) white on black signage for toll schedules and exact coin ramps.  Some of these still exist.
"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention." - Ramsay Bolton, "Game of Thrones"

"Symbolic of his struggle against reality." - Reg, "Monty Python's Life of Brian"

J N Winkler

Quote from: AlpsROADS on March 06, 2010, 06:38:39 PM
Quote from: agentsteel53 on March 06, 2010, 01:54:12 PMno, trust me Steve, NJTP used black.  The green you see is corrosion.  If you blow up the saturation and contrast of any photo you will have it turn to colors, but here, it is black.

Jake, it is and was not black.  I don't know, since you're in California, but me being from New Jersey, I have been up close and personal with these signs many times.  You can see the brushstrokes, for one.  For another, they're absolutely green.

This is a bit of an old chestnut--is there an electronic plans archive where we could look up the construction plans for the original signing and check the designers' intent?
"It is necessary to spend a hundred lire now to save a thousand lire later."--Piero Puricelli, explaining the need for a first-class road system to Benito Mussolini

Alps

Just brought up another white on black sign - see old MD 23.

joseph1723

Ontario uses white on black signs on all of their lane assignment arrow signs and on some tabs for regulatory signs such as the km/h tab.
Lane assignment arrows:

D-Dey65

I saw one in a history book years ago in a chapter on the Civil Rights movement. There was one in the background of some segregated town in the southeast where Martin Luther King Jr. was holding a rally.

There was also one that used to be in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Scroll to the right to see it.





myosh_tino

Quote from: TheStranger on March 06, 2010, 07:01:28 PM
The one vintage pre-1958 white-on-black sign that remained in California for many years (though since replaced in the last 2-3 years) was along what was once US 101 in San Diego (the Pacific Highway freeway), an exit for "Roadside Business" that remained when the Montgomery Freeway (today's I-5, also at one point US 101) was built near Lindbergh Field.

There is still one vintage white-on-black sign on northbound I-5 near the CA-14 interchange...


Not sure how much longer that sign is going to be around though because Caltrans is doing some construction work at the I-5/CA-14 interchange to add carpool-to-carpool ramps.
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SignBridge

I don't think that's a black sign in the above Calif. photo. It looks to me like a very old and dirty dark green sign.

Ditto re: those NJ Turnpike signs posted earlier. I believe Alps is correct. The color in that photo may be a little off and/or the signs may be very old and dirty. Those signs were installed in the mid-1950's when the Newark Bay Extension was built. And NJ Turnpike was well into dark green signs, not black.

Re: vintage black signs, I'm surprised nobody mentioned the State Parkway System on New York's Long Island. Back in the 1950's, 60's and 70's, they had their own unique sign system when those roads were under the Long Island State Park Commission. They used all wood signs with reflectorized upper-case white lettering on a black tarpaper background. And as someone said above, they also had some overhead signs with black lettering on a white background. Those were installed from 1960 thru 1975.

In 1976 New York State DOT took over the state parkways. At first they re-signed with white lettering on a brown background for all guide signs. Then in the 1980's they finally re-signed the entire system with standard white/green signs. The first project on Northern State Parkway in 1984 used button-copy and that was the last place I saw button copy used. All their subsequent installations used the now standard reflective lettering.

roadfro

Quote from: myosh_tino on March 08, 2010, 02:26:20 PM
There is still one vintage white-on-black sign on northbound I-5 near the CA-14 interchange...

I'm no Caltrans sign expert, but that I-5/CA 14 truck route sign doesn't seem to be of older vintage. In fact, it seems newer than the autos pull-through sign to the left. The green of the CA 14 shield seems to be similar to that used on newer guide signs, and the I-5 shield appears to be of slightly newer specification.

If it is a newer sign, that makes the design colors that much more interesting...
Roadfro - AARoads Pacific Southwest moderator since 2010, Nevada roadgeek since 1983.

corco

QuoteThe green of the CA 14 shield seems to be similar to that used on newer guide signs, and the I-5 shield appears to be of slightly newer specification.

If I'm not mistaken, Caltrans often slaps fresh shields on old signs as the shields fade but the rest of the sign still looks good

agentsteel53

indeed, the truck route sign dates to 1971.  California has a black-with-white-legend sign specification remaining to this day for truck route signs.

for some clearly even more recent examples, see the "truck lane" signs going west on I-40 out of Needles up the grade.
live from sunny San Diego.

http://shields.aaroads.com

jake@aaroads.com

agentsteel53

Quote from: TheStranger on March 06, 2010, 07:01:28 PM
The one vintage pre-1958 white-on-black sign that remained in California for many years (though since replaced in the last 2-3 years) was along what was once US 101 in San Diego (the Pacific Highway freeway), an exit for "Roadside Business" that remained when the Montgomery Freeway (today's I-5, also at one point US 101) was built near Lindbergh Field.

there's a couple of others!  The Roadside Business sign has been covered up, but is not gone, and there are the two in the bay area, one for LA International Airport (not LAX!), and a few others I am not remembering offhand...
live from sunny San Diego.

http://shields.aaroads.com

jake@aaroads.com

roadfro

Quote from: agentsteel53 on March 09, 2010, 04:15:18 AM
indeed, the truck route sign dates to 1971.  California has a black-with-white-legend sign specification remaining to this day for truck route signs.

Well, that sign is certainly in good shape for being almost 40 years old. In that photo, it looks fairly new.

I wasn't aware that Caltrans had a white-on-black specification for truck route signs. It seems to make sense, given the regulatory/guide nature of the truck weigh station sign seen in the national MUTCD. It is a bit unusual, but I like it.

Roadfro - AARoads Pacific Southwest moderator since 2010, Nevada roadgeek since 1983.

D-Dey65

Quote from: SignBridge on March 08, 2010, 08:40:06 PM
Re: vintage black signs, I'm surprised nobody mentioned the State Parkway System on New York's Long Island. Back in the 1950's, 60's and 70's, they had their own unique sign system when those roads were under the Long Island State Park Commission. They used all wood signs with reflectorized upper-case white lettering on a black tarpaper background. And as someone said above, they also had some overhead signs with black lettering on a white background. Those were installed from 1960 thru 1975.

In 1976 New York State DOT took over the state parkways. At first they re-signed with white lettering on a brown background for all guide signs.
I only saw that on the Southern State Parkway, and only in Nassau County.

Quote from: SignBridge on March 08, 2010, 08:40:06 PMThen in the 1980's they finally re-signed the entire system with standard white/green signs. The first project on Northern State Parkway in 1984 used button-copy and that was the last place I saw button copy used. All their subsequent installations used the now standard reflective lettering.
The signs at the Valley Stream State Park interchange on the Southern State are still leftover brown ones. Too bad they never added them for the Belmont Lake State Park interchange.


Breadman17

I know it's been a while since someone posted to this topic but I know that there's a white on black sign here in western PA. There's several actually on I-79 north of cranberry.

The catch? They're all new specification white on black for trucks. I think in some states this is a general thing for truck instructions
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