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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."