The future of stop signs may be a lot brighter, and flashier.
At the intersection of Altamesa Boulevard and Trail Lake Drive in southwest Fort Worth, two stop signs with blinking red LED lights have been installed to improve visibility for motorists. The lights, which blink about every second, line the perimeter of the octagon-shaped signs.
They were installed April 24. Fort Worth officials say they will test their effectiveness for several months.
The Altamesa-Trail Lake intersection is six lanes wide and known for poor visibility.
The city was considering putting in large red beacons to draw attention to the stop signs. A representative of Tapco, a company that makes signs, asked Fort Worth officials to try the blinking signs.
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"We had tried a similar product from Tapco with a plastic ring of blinking lights that was attached to a stop sign eight years ago, and were not impressed with the product durability," said Mark Mathis, city traffic services manager. "But they showed me this new solar-powered unit that is built within the stop sign itself and made out of aluminum rather than plastic. We agreed that Altamesa and Trail Lake would be opportunity to take a serious look at the product."
The lights are focused with a plastic lens to broadcast light only 10 degrees either side of center, so nearby homes aren't hit with glare.
■A dimming feature reduces the light intensity at night.
■Batteries won't need to be replaced for three years, Tapco officials say.
■Solar panels can hold a charge up to seven days without direct sunlight.
At what cost?
They're expensive — $1,400 each — compared with about $50 for a standard 36-inch stop sign.
Fort Worth officials also plan to install a blinking school zone sign soon at an undetermined location. City officials will monitor the effectiveness of the blinking signs for a few months and decide whether to recommend wider use.
Are they safe?
The number of vehicles not fully stopping at a stop sign was reduced by 29 percent, and the number of stop-sign runners who "blew through" the intersection was reduced by 53 percent, according to a 2003 study of LED flashing stop signs conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute in College Station.
Are they legal?
Federal traffic device guidelines allow cities and states to use illuminated signs, as long as the lights meet color standards and flash 50-60 times per minute.