Good signage strategically placed is essential to a pleasant and safe visitor’s experience as well as integral to effective marketing. Signs are badges of identity that convey several kinds of information at a glance. The gilded and carved wooden signs familiar to travelers in New England are meant to convey “expensive good taste.” Some other Scenic Byways, such as the Historic Columbia River Highway and Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Oregon, offer outstanding examples of context-sensitive design, gateways, and signage. By studying such examples similar ideas and principles can be adapted or incorporated in development of the Staunton – Parkersburg Turnpike Byway.
Billboards along a highway intend to serve demand for travelers’ immediate gratification; but billboard overload cheapens and obscures the landscape. New billboards are not allowed along designated sections of Scenic Byways.
The objective for Byway signage is to provide clear information that the traveler needs and wants in a way that is attractive and contributes to the Byway experience, rather than detracting from it.
The West Virginia Byways program and West Virginia Department of Transportation provide specific Byways signage along designated Byways and Backways. In addition, certain types of directional and informational signs can be available. All signage erected along the public roadways of the Byway must meet Department of Transportation regulations.
Turnpike “gateways” at each major trailhead or Byway entrance will be identified by Byway signage. These gateways will enhance public identification of the Byway and provide information about the Byway opportunities. In addition, signage along the Byway will provide reinforcement to visitors that they are still on the Byway, and give them all the information they need to find and enjoy the Turnpike attractions, interpretation, and services.
A comprehensive signage plan will be developed in cooperation with the WV Department of Transportation and Byway program to address these needs. Existing DOT regulations provide for specific Byway and site identification signage. Cooperation with those SPTA partners familiar with local attractions, needs, and traffic patterns is essential in determining the best placement for designated signage. In developing the specifics we need careful planning to provide visitors with optimal information, stay compliant with existing regulations, and also keep signage minimally intrusive along the Byway.
Although the highway signage uses only the DOT approved logo, a unified logo and look specific to the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike is highly desirable for all other purposes. Ideally this motif will be coordinated along the entire Byway, including the Virginia sections. The symbols or icons should be easily recognizable, and used consistently on brochures, printed materials including advertising, and other types of public communication. The logo that has been developed based on a wagon wheel has already achieved some visibility. Continuing to use this logo, or a close variation on it, may be best.
Road signs should reassure travelers that they are on the correct route, announce locations of specific sites in plenty of time for travelers to make decisions, and also facilitate identification and use of interpretive waysides, located in properly designed roadside pull-offs. The state Scenic Byway signs will provide recognition and way finding along the route. Existing program identification signs for historic sites and visitor services will be used to help visitors find the attractions they are looking for. This SPT logo should be used on brochures, interpretive signs, and on-premises signage for participating Byway businesses and attractions. Using the logo consistently and as frequently as possible will help to provide strong viewer identification.
Careful, thorough integration of regulatory, interpretive, warning and directional signs should move visitors along the scenic byway and its backroads in a safe and efficient manner. Development of a detailed signage plan specifying exactly what signs are advisable in each location is an urgent priority recommendation. The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) Guidelines will be used in developing the plan. These Guidelines are those provided by the WVDOH, and are enumerated as follows:
Gateway Signage -- Attractive and informative gateways will provide a strong welcome, a visual identity for the Byway, and information for visitors.
The gateway at the Virginia / West Virginia state line at the top of Allegheny Mountain has a rudimentary pull off at the Backway intersection, with a plethora of single signs stuck haphazardly on both sides of the highway. Signage at this location badly needs to be coordinated to introduce visitors to the Byway and to West Virginia. The concept of an attractive and developed gateway wayside, including multiple signage and visitor information, is strongly advised regardless of the particular site and design that are chosen
Another initial gateway is at Beverly. As a major attraction as well as gateway to the Byway and Rich Mountain Backway, a staffed interpretive and welcome center is particularly appropriate in addition to gateway signage. The other major gateways are at Weston and Parkersburg. Use of similar design elements at various gateway locations, would provide common identity as well as information.
Interpretive Signage -- The Division of Culture & History’s historic markers are readily recognized by state residents and in many cases have been in place long enough to be historically significant themselves. New historic markers can also be arranged if supported by a local sponsor and may be an appropriate interpretation tool in some locations. They have two major drawbacks. One is the limitation of type and amount of information they can contain – the length is limited and they can not accommodate graphics, use of headlines, or other visual means to enhance the text message. The other difficulty is that usually these signs are placed along roadsides with no provision for warning travelers of the sign ahead, and no wayside or pull-off for the traveler to stop and read the sign. Since the messages are too long and the text too small to read from the road, this means many of these signs are essentially useless and unread at best, and can be actively dangerous to drivers attempting to stop in unsafe locations or trying to read them while driving.
This CMP strongly recommends that interpretive signage along the Byway be located at safe waysides or pull-offs along the Byway. They can either be located on adjoining property, or on highway right-of-way with an extended shoulder, as seems advisable in each location. If possible, each wayside should have advance signage with the SPT logo, ¼ mile in advance, warning motorists of a wayside ahead. At the wayside, if there are existing or planned historic markers they can be placed where they can be safely read from the wayside. Most of the new interpretive signage for the Byway should be low-profile fiberglass-embedded or equivalent interpretive signs that support graphics and visually exciting interpretive messages. The design will be coordinated whenever possible with interpretive signs at the individual sites. Each wayside will focus on one theme or subtheme of the Byway. In some cases they can be combined with historic sites, walking trails, picnic facilities, or scenic overlooks as appropriate.
Advertising signage – It is essential both for the visitors and for businesses that advertising signage be clear to convey business services and information. Yet it is important to the Byway that such signage be attractive and not detract from the Byway experience. The Scenic Byway program prohibits future billboards as off-premise signage, and permits for new billboards will not be issued. According to the sign control regulations as enforced by Division of Highways, on-premises signage of one sign no larger than 150 sq. ft is allowed up to 500 feet before a business in each direction, and in addition signage is allowed within fifty feet of the business.
These permitted signs should be quite sufficient to advertise the location and promotion of Byway businesses. They will be even more efficient if combined with a coordinated program to promote Byway businesses, including suggestions for signage design that would coordinate with the Byway image, use of Byway logo, and promotion in Byway brochures and services advertising.
One difficulty with the existing regulations is there is no provision for providing signage along the Byway for businesses that contribute to Byway services but are located a short distance off of the roadway – thus not qualifying as on-premises signage. Signs for such businesses of appropriate size and design seem to be a different situation than large billboards advertising unrelated commercial activity. Yet they are treated the same in DOT regulations.
An exception to the sign control regulations is called the “segmented out rule” which allows the byways program to agree to exempt specific segments of the Byway that are largely commercial and industrial and which do not contribute to the intrinsic qualities. These sections can be established on a case by case basis when signage requests are filed. The Byway organization, with assistance from a designated review authority in each county that includes local representatives of the Byway organization, will be responsible for reviewing such requests. This review may approve segmentation if the requested sign is in an area with existing intrusions or commercial/industrial activity, and may deny the request if it would impact the intrinsic qualities of the Byway.
The maps in Appendix C indicate those areas of the Byway that are currently in commercial or industrial use. Segmentation upon request will be approved for commercial and industrial areas. Segmentation will not be approved for areas with identified historic and natural/recreation sites that retain their significance and integrity. Those areas on the maps indicated as forest, agricultural or residential are considered to contribute to the scenic intrinsic qualities of the Byway, and are assumed in most cases to be inappropriate for outdoor advertising. However, the Byway will review and consider segmentation requests in these areas, and may possibly allow segmentation if the area in question has little integrity, pre-existing intrusions, or the requested sign is considered to not intrude on the Byway intrinsic quality at that location.
The maps and intrinsic quality inventory lists may be reviewed and updated on a periodic basis, and modified based on new information or changes in sites, conditions and land use patterns. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway will seek to enforce the outdoor advertising regulations on the Byway in a way that protects the intrinsic qualities and maximizes the Byway experiences, but at the same time balance that with the need to provide information for travelers and support appropriate business development along the Byway.