Clearview: The new road sign "font"

Update: As of January 25, 2016, the FHWA has rescinded the Interim Approval authorizing the use of Clearview lettering on guide signs. All signs will be designed using the traditional FHWA Series lettering. Existing signs that meet the criteria outlined in the original Interim Approval from 2004 may remain for the rest of their service life.

Beginning in spring 2006, the New York State Thruway Authority began implementing a new typeface on all new guide signs. The style of this alphabet is called "Clearview".

There is a pretty good explanation, complete with reader's comments, in this article. You may also want to take a look at Richard Moeur's Traffic Stuff, as he gives quite a bit of information on all the different typeface styles used on road signs. And this link takes you to the FHWA MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) supplement about Clearview.

Here's a comparison of a sign using the "traditional" typeface and a Clearview sign.

E mod - Clearview comparison

When Clearview first made it's debut in Pennsylvania, I was opposed to it. I couldn't see any reason to change what's worked for 50 years. Their new signs had an amateurish look to them. I had difficulty with sign word recognition because as a road enthusiast I had become accustomed to the original styling of lettering. Over the past year or so I have calmed down quite a bit regarding the use of Clearview. I think it's silly and irresponsible for state DOTs to be taking down signs that have many years of service left just for the sake of putting a new Clearview sign in it's place. The old FHWA series of fonts have worked fine for decades, we certainly can continue to use existing signs until their life cycle comes to an end. However, I no longer have an issue with Clearview being used on replacements or new installations. I find it acceptable as long as the sign is designed properly and the spacing still looks "balanced". Personally, I find the Clearview signs in Texas much easier to read and more aesthetically balanced than the signs installed by PennDOT. In fact, I have seen Clearview signs now in Texas, Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania, and surprisingly, I think Pennsylvania has the poorest implementation of this new lettering style.

Clearview Example

In addition, there are aspects of Clearview that I still have issue with. I find the "6", "8" and "9" hard to distinguish from each other. I also have issue with the curve on the lower case "l" and the tail on the lowercase "g". In these instances, the original FHWA typefaces are superior. I also prefer the FHWA typefaces in all-capital letter legend used in regulatory and warning installations. I believe "SPEED LIMIT" carries a more authoritive air about it when it's in FHWA Series D.

One benefit of using Clearview is the reduction of all-caps legend on guide signs. Hopefully this will encourage engineers to use mixed case lettering as much as possible, which will improve word recognition availability to motorists. This in turn, enhances driver safety giving motorists more time to react to guide signs.

I'm anxious to see how the Thruway's implementation of Clearview progresses. To my knowledge, NYSDOT has not adopted this policy as of yet.

As an aside, after a trip through Pennsylvania and then after browsing the Standard Highway Signs book, I just recently noticed how destinations and mileages should be formatted on wider panels. I've depicted the recommended layout in the "Watertown" graphic above.

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