Upon further reflection, no lights needed for new highway signs

Upon further reflection, no lights needed for new highway signs

CHAMPAIGN — The company that makes Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes also makes a new reflective sheeting that's being installed on new highway signs around town.

Minnesota-based 3M makes the new sheeting, which a company out of Arkansas uses to make the new signs that contractors have been installing the past couple weeks along highways that run through Champaign-Urbana.

"It's an upgraded sheeting so that the lights on the structures are not needed," said Jake Daczewitz, one of the owners of Kujo, which is installing the signs for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "When car lights shine on the signs, it's reflective enough for cars to be able to read it, whereas before, they needed light to shine on the signs."

Gary Simms, the traffic operations engineer for IDOT's District 5, said the new signs meet new federal guidelines for reflectivity that were adopted about a decade ago.

"So like in 2009, the Federal Highway Administration mandated a sign retroreflectivity standard. ... All the states had to adopt some method of maintaining that," Simms said. "Originally, those big green signs were not considered to be included in that requirement. Later it was clarified that they are."

The new sheeting has a 15-year warranty, so one-fifteenth of the signs in each district are replaced each year.

"We have a 15-year cycle, so every year we basically take a bite-sized chunk, one-fifteenth of the district a year we change out," Simms said. "DeWitt County was last year. This year they're working on Piatt County. Then we'll be going to the monster of McLean."

Because the signs are made out of aluminum, they have been affected by the 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

"It's been painfully slow. Trump's tariffs created a lot of problems with contractor procuring the materials they needed to make the sign," Simms said.

Kujo is supposed to install the signs within three months of getting the order, but Simms said they were given a five-month extension.

"They realized they can't actually get the material it needs to make the signs," Simms said.

Kujo itself doesn't make the signs. It only installs them.

Daczewitz said an Arkansas-based company called Interstate Signways makes them.

"Prices have increased, from what we've been told from them," he said. That "increases our bid to the state, so the state obviously is going to pick up the bill."

Kujo installs most of the highway signs, Simms said, though IDOT installs any new signs as well as replacements for damaged ones.

"It's a lot. They're like magnets if you slide off the road," Simms said.

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