- Report Published -
|The Placement of Adequate Tourism Signage Along Transportation Corridors in Southwest Virginia|
|Department of Transportation|
|SJR 129 (Regular Session, 1994)|
|Senate Joint Resolution 129 (SJR 129) requested that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) study the placement of certain signs, specifically those that could be erected along transportation corridors in Southwest Virginia, and particularly along the Blue Ridge Parkway, directing travelers to nearby attractions and services.|
The resolution emphasized that the placement of signs should be in a manner that meets regulatory requirement and that would be in conformance with the aesthetic needs of the area. It further stipulated that the Department work with the National Park Service, in particular the Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, toward examining the type of signage that would accommodate the needs of travelers without infringing upon the aesthetic requirements designed to protect the Parkway.
A review of current sign regulations revealed that there are no legal restrictions to the placement of official directional guide signs for tourist attractions within the right of way of state highways. Current VDOT guidelines allow signs for most types of tourist attractions to be placed on any state highway within ten miles of the attraction as long as certain conditions and criteria are satisfied. Although it is not VDOT's current practice to place motorist service (gas, good, lodging) signs on state roads other than interstate and some limited access highways, there are no regulations prohibiting this.
During the course of the study conducted by VDOT, it became apparent that the Blue Ridge Parkway staff had serious reservations about a program that would require a significant number of new signs on the Parkway. Later, we received a call from the president of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, who had been informed of our study by the parkway superintendent, requesting a meeting with VDOT and Parkway staff.
At the meeting, it was revealed that the Blue Ridge Parkway Association had been working with the Blue Ridge Parkway staff since the spring of 1993 toward a program that would establish a chain of regional visitor information centers within five miles of the Parkway throughout the Southwest Virginia. These centers would provide information about all attractions and motorist service facilities in each region.
It is felt that the planned regional visitor information center program will better suit the needs of travelers while allaying any concerns about the effect of additional signs on the aesthetic quality of Southwest Virginia. Directional signs alone for example, are generally effective only within a ten-mile radius of the place denoted on them. This would severely limit the number of attractions in Southwest Virginia for which signs could be provided in the Parkway corridor. Also, in any case where more than one attraction or service facility, or a combination of the additional or larger signs would be required, a condition which the Parkway has indicated is not preferable.
The regional visitor information centers would be able to provide tourists with far more information about service facilities and attractions, including locations, directions, hours of operation, etc., than can be conveyed through highway signs.
Directions to the regional visitor centers could be provided with only one sign -- designed, installed and maintained by the Parkway -- in each direction at each access road leading from the Parkway. This would allow the Parkway staff to retain control of, and thereby protect, the aesthetics of their facility.
Additional signs to provide continuity of directional information, commonly referred to as "trail blazers", would be required along the state routes leading from the Parkway to the regional centers. Current VDOT guidelines allow signs for only those centers approved and sanctioned by the Virginia Division of Tourism and a revision to these guidelines would be necessary before such trail blazer signs could be erected.
Based on the findings of this study, it is the conclusion of VDOT, because of the obvious benefits of the planned regional visitor information centers, and the fact that these centers will provide information to tourists in a manner superior to a highway sign program, that the implementation of the program by the Blue Ridge Parkway Association and the Blue Ridge Parkway be accepted as satisfying the goals sought through Senate Joint Resolution 129. VDOT fully supports the Blue Ridge Parkway Association and the Blue Ridge Parkway in carrying out their regional visitor information center program, and will revise its signing guidelines as necessary for the purposes of this program.