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After 12 Years, Federal Highway Administration To Phase Out

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On: Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 8:04PM | By: Carl Malek


After 12 Years, Federal Highway Administration To Phase Out

After a planning process that spanned at least a decade, as well as a small experimental phase. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has decided to reverse course on its plans to convert all of its freeway signs to all new "Clearview" font, and revert all signs to the traditional Highway Gothic typeface.

The new font was supposed to replace the cryptically named "Highway Gothic" font—officially the FHWA Series font—that had been in use on all freeway signs across the country. The initial steps of the transition were approved in 2004, and was widely expected to eventually replace the existing font on all road signs; nearly 30 states adopted "Clearview" font for either all of their signs or some signs which resulted in a mixture of both fonts being used in some states. The idea behind Clearview was the belief that it improved legibility of the letters (especially at night) and improved the distance that the letters could be perceived by motorists.

This was achieved by altering the spacing of certain letters with more negative spacing being added, especially for lowercase letters such as a, e, and s. The font was the fruit of a joint research project by the Texas Transportation Institute and the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute with initial tests showing that the new font was visible 80 feet further than the existing Highway Gothic font.

However, subsequent tests have shown that the data was flawed, and the Clearview font was less legible when used on signs with white and yellow backgrounds with dark lettering (i.e. speed limit signs and caution signs). The font was also less visible on traditional street signs which also followed the lead of their bigger counterparts in adopting Clearview font. The FHWA rescinded the formal approval of the font, which means new signs will be set in Highway Gothic, and existing signs will have to return to Highway Gothic when they are no longer usable and need to be replaced. Once the replacement program is completed, the Highway Gothic font will regain its title of being the only font used on all street and freeway signs in the U.S.




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