New street signs coming to Oak Park

Village hopes more visible street markers will make it easier to navigate

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Sick of squinting at signs while trying to find your way around Oak Park? Well village hall is taking notice and wants to make it a little easier to read street names in the near future.

Oak Park is planning to switch out the fading green placards that have been up for the past 20 years. In their place will be slightly larger blue signs, written with lowercase letters, rather than all caps like the current ones.

Village Manager Tom Barwin said the new markers will make it easier for citizens to report the location of crimes, along with simplifying travel for aging baby boomers and tourists.

"A lot of our signs are old, they're really tiny, and they're placed way, way too high," Barwin said. "So as we look down the road a bit, we want better visibility."

Oak Park recently sent out a call to companies, looking for bids to install 450 new signs on side streets south of South Boulevard before the end of this year. Village Engineer Jim Budrick said the deadline to respond is Oct. 6, and the village board is expected to review a contract for possible approval shortly after.

In a Web comment Monday on an earlier version of this story, Village President David Pope emphasized it's not a shoe-in that the board will vote yes on the project, as some board members have "serious concerns about it given the level of expenditure involved."

The village is budgeting $50,000 for new signs in the southern portion of the village, and another $50,000 to install 450 new signs in the northern portion sometime next year. Meanwhile, major streets will get the new sign somewhere down the line.

In addition to the current signs reaching the end of their useful life, Budrick said, Oak Park also needs to make the switch because of new mandates from the Federal Highway Authority. The agency is requiring that all streets signs be upgraded to meet new standards — such as larger type, clearer colors and more reflectivity — by the end of 2018, Budrick said.

The aluminum signs are slightly bigger, with 4-inch letters, and are being placed closer to the street level on steel posts, about 9 feet high. If you want to see a sample of the new markers, go to Kenilworth and Randolph, just north of Brooks Middle School.

The Community Design Commission debated their appearance this past summer, helping to decide the size and font, said Tom Philion, head of the commission. Blue was already pretty much decided as the color, and they briefly considered adding a logo, but reneged over worries that it was getting too cluttered.

"Blue is beautiful, that's my quote," Philion said. "People should just go with it. It looks nice, and it will stand out better than the current green."

Reader Comments

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Posted: September 29th, 2011 10:38 AM

The mixed-case makes the signs harder to read, not easier. The blue will make the signs easier to spot, though. If the changes aren't required for another seven years though, it seems like we should wait. The law might change again before 2018 and then we'd have to change our signs all over again.

Lori M  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 10:48 AM

Um, by looking at the photo here, the new signs are harder to read.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 8:58 AM

This headline is a bit ahead of the process, as there has been no decision or review by the Village Board of this proposal. Personally, I have some concerns about this expense at this time and see other priorities which may need to take precedent. I look forward to the staff presentation in the near term.


Posted: September 26th, 2011 11:25 PM

If Someone does NOT have the costs involved, how does one present that info to the board for approval? It will be about this much? It would seem the process has always been to gather real figures and then present those to the board to either get approval or not. Simple.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 8:41 PM

Enuf is Enuf, who made the sign that is on display? I think that can tell you what the approximate cost is. I don't think it was public works making a template.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 7:19 PM

Enuf - great, valuable and interesting information. I feel a little bit smarter tonight.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 7:13 PM

For the village to bid a project prior to their approval is akin to placing the cart before the horse, represents a potential waste to bidders, and a disingenuous way to obtain costs. It takes time and expertise to competitively bids projects, which is why bid notices should only be issued for approved items. Otherwise, word gets out the village is not serious about actually awarding bid notices, which results in future bids being increased as part of the cost of doing business with the village.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 7:03 PM

Typically, as part of the annual budget review process, village staff would provide a cost estimate for any proposed public works item, such as street sign replacement, for board approval. Upon approval, the cost estimate becomes the "projected budget" line item, which then serves as the basis for subsequent bidding. If a bid is awarded, the amount becomes the "estimated" budget line item, which is eventually replaced by an "actual" line item cost upon completion.


Posted: September 26th, 2011 3:08 PM

Sight lines and blocked vision due to trees can be a problem. New signs or not this issue needs to be handled. Its not an either or scenario.


Posted: September 26th, 2011 2:47 PM

to add to EP's comment...and they have already put one set of new signs up as displayed int he photo of this article!

Epic Putz  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 2:36 PM

Mr. Pope says that this is not a done deal, yet the Village is apparently seeking bids for the work. Is it standard operating procedure to seek bids for a project that has not yet been approved by the Board?


Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:53 PM

Wow - really?! VOP buys a building for over $900K, adds new colored crosswalks at $11K each, and now wants to replace signs that don't need it? Meanwhile, non-union employees of the Village have not had pay raises for 4 years, and are not budgeted for them in 2012. Yes, I'm one of them, and yes, I'm happy to have a job, but state income tax has increased, so my paycheck is smaller than it was, and everything costs more - just saying.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:27 PM

Silly, you can't be the same Silly posting because you are not being silly like usual. You are being ridiculous. Give the real Silly back his Silly posting name.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:26 PM

David Pope, I meant to add in my previous post that I wanted to thank you for taking the time to reply. Thank you.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 12:25 PM

David Pope, common sense is lacking here. Tree trimming would make both, the current street signs and the new signs visible, so either way, that needs to be done so signs can do what they are suppose to do. You just don't need to spend money on signs at this time. It's just like a pair of pants. Wear them out and don't waste money on a new pair just because it's nice to have a new pair. The old pair is doing just fine.


Posted: September 26th, 2011 11:17 AM

Signs are really nice. I hope this can move forward. Its called operating budget. 40 yrs and its about time that we update our outdated look and function. Its time. I encourage anybody to drive by Kenilworth and Randolph and take a look.

David Pope from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 9:07 AM

Q: I certainly wasn't trying to blame Marty. My point was that, contrary to a number of the comments below, the Village Board hasn't even taken this issue up, and the three members of the Village Board who have discussed this (at a Finance Committee meeting) had some serious concerns about it given the level of expenditure involved (as compared to alternatives like improved tree trimming near the existing signs).


Posted: September 26th, 2011 8:45 AM

If the village is going to such a great expense to remake and hang these signs, I wish they had made them somewhat graphically unique to Oak Park in font or style. I saw a few new signs this morning near Brooks and they're incredibly basic.

Mary from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2011 8:24 AM

Really? $100,000 on new street signs? As someone well into middle age, with the dwindling visual acuity, I have no trouble at all reading the street signs we have. Perhaps some of the tree branches blocking their view can be trimmed back - that would be far less costly. Village of Oak Park, please reconsider this. There are far greater priorities. Let's not fix something that's not really broken!


Posted: September 25th, 2011 11:34 PM

Maybe Marty is missing a (?) at the end of his title for this story.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2011 11:04 PM

Using Marty as an escapegoat because no one likes the idea of spending more money on something that is not falling apart like other projects in Oak Park, just doesn't simple financially responsible. This project is going to be approved and you know it and more people are paying better attention because money is not plentiful. Find someone else at fault. Marty doesn't deserve this one.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2011 10:57 PM

The board never taxes into consideration of taxpayers who voice their opposition to projects. The entire board looks like they aren't even listening. The people finish and then you go to all in favor? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and then there is Yes, but I don't think we need it down at this time from a member. Then it's passed and on to the next project.

David Pope from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2011 9:05 PM

Marty missed the portion of the Finance Committee meeting 2 weeks ago re: this topic. Given the questions and concerns raised by three members of the Village Board at that meeting, it certainly seems more than a little premature to state that the Board "will" do anything with this proposal other than take it up for discussion. Any such expenditure requires Board discussion & direction. No Board discussion has yet occured, so no one can know at this point whether this will move ahead or not.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 25th, 2011 2:41 PM

Q-thanks for the nice comments. As far as waiting until 2018 for signs. I agree they could have. So why didn't they? My sense is that the crosswalk painting and street signs is simply the village and board attempting to create visual evidence of action during the period when they are broke and hyper-active on development.


Posted: September 25th, 2011 12:53 PM

Scott, I can't see your point.

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2011 7:44 AM

I see they chose an outdated font that is impossible to distinguish a lowercase "L" and an uppercase "I" apart. Use a proper wayfinding font, folks.


Posted: September 24th, 2011 7:08 PM

I remember reading something a while back about how all cap signs aren't as readable as upper and lower case ones. Also, something about the font they are using being easier to read. I was for highway signs, not street signs, but I can see how it would transfer. Personally, I like the new signs. The blue makes them stick out from the surrounding foliage.


Posted: September 24th, 2011 6:46 PM

We need street signs, of course. But have you noticed how many "other" signs are being put up on every block? Everywhere you look there's some metal placard attached to a light pole or affixed to an equally ugly metal stick in the ground. Oak Park has been on a mission to improve signage and the result is overload!

Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 6:45 PM

Did you ever wonder why the new street signs are not all in CAPITAL LETTERS like the old ones ?

Do the math  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 6:17 PM

So what happens if it's not done by 2018, do the silly trustees and silly village manager go to jail??? Here's hoping

Mike Lennox  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 6:03 PM

Signs look fine to me and I wear bifocals

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 2:39 PM

john murtagh, read the article. They don't need the signs ups for another 6 years. So get 6 more years out of the current signs.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 1:45 PM

Read the article! The Fed made them replace the signs. They used spin to make it appear that it was a locally planned and executed program. It backfired -- most people said "Why now?", when OP services are so dismal. I am a south sider and therefore know nothing about tourist amenities.


Posted: September 24th, 2011 1:21 PM

You can not spend TIF dollar$ anywhere and anyway you want in the Village. The money for signs should be in the operating budget. Signs in this Village have not been updated in over 40 yrs. Money well spent. Just ask any of the out of towners that utilized those signs to navigate through out the Village. :-)

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 11:58 AM

Do the math, the 3 wisemen know that there is nothing you can do about it.

Do the math  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 10:43 AM

According to my math, our silly village trustees and our silly village manager spent $900K on a building and $100K on street signs. My calculator shows that to be 1 million dolllars of our tax money spent in one week. I wish I could blow that much without remorse, they are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lucky

Focus on Frosting from OP  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 5:17 AM

The Oak Park Village Board and Manager should print t-shirts with their motto on it: "Always focus on the frosting, nevermind the decaying cake underneath." Sprinkles anyone?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2011 12:32 AM

My head, relax and take it easy. It's not worth getting your bowels all bound up. The people in power to make buying decisions enjoy spending because it's not their money, it's yours and all the taxpayers. If there was a vote today, I'm sure the percentage of the educated people in Oak Park would favor keeping things as they are. Just because you are educated doesn't mean you can reason.

My head is going to explode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 9:35 PM

Another $100k wasted by those who fill village hall. This town amazes me, my freakin alley looks like Iraq and they're spending cash to replace signs in perfectly good shape, sounds like the I290 repaving that wasn't needed. It's time to move

Jim M.  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 8:06 PM

( Sung to the theme song from "Two and a Half Men) Spend spend spend spend spend spend spend, oo hoo hoo, hoo hoo, oo spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend, oh spendddddd

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 7:18 PM

Cool idea, Paul! The Village should auction off the old signs.

Diana from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 6:56 PM

New street signs - ridiculous! Please spend the money on worthwhile improvements, such as, paving streets that are crumbling and have pot holes. Also,the little signs indicating direction to points of interest or parks -what a waste!

Paul Rubio from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 5:45 PM

Will the Village give away the old signs to citizens interested in having keep-sakes?

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 2:55 PM

@Traffic Why does it matter when the last time OP got new signs? The old ones look good enough and they have worked well for all these years. I have no trouble reading any of the signs in Oak Park, well except for understanding parking regulations. Please spend the money on something more worthwile. Besides, by the year 2018 most cars will have GPS and you won't need street signs to get around. The village sure car find ways to spend money...


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:28 AM

T.J., when do think the last time OP got new street signs?


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:22 AM

Saw this prototype sign today, and I LOVED it!

Oak Park and Lake from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 9:55 AM

That was a typo, I meant $111 per sign.

Oak Park and Lake from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 9:54 AM

So it's going to cost about $1,111 per sign, purchased and installed? How does that make any sense? Did the town pay too much for signs themselves or are the guys installing these signs making more than more an hour than most tax payers in Oak Park.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 8:55 AM

I've mentioned it before that someone must have a relative in the sign business. The 3 Wiseman like spending on brick streets, buying property and paying a sign company. It would be fine if the prices paid would be reasonable but they aren't.

T.J. from Oak Park   

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 8:37 AM

The Village of Oak Park just keeps coming up with ways to spend taxpayer money in these difficult economic times. Local gov't in Oak Park is out of control and this is just one more example. Try exercising some stewardship for once.


Posted: September 23rd, 2011 8:30 AM

Didn't OPPW used to have a sign division? I am certain they did, where they made signs from scratch.

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