Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Got a buck on ya?

I was tripping around the web and found this on The Political Carnival:

ATLANTA, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Georgia will stop posting signs along highway construction projects funded by economic stimulus funds, because the signs cost too much money, officials said.

The signs were first considered a nice indication that stimulus funds were putting Georgians to work but they became a target for ridicule and criticism once it was determined that they cost $1,200 apiece, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

– and –

New York dropped the sign idea this summer when some contractors quoted prices above $4,000 for some of the larger signs.

hmmmmm. This sounds like an awful lot for a sign, although it says nothing about size, nor what material is used, nor any number of things that could account for such prices for… signs!?!

Now, I guess there is also a contractor markup to figure here. I think, however, I agree with Paddy at The Political Carnival:

“This is just stupid. I can go to any local Fast Signs and have one of those magnetic ones whipped up for under $100 and just keep reusing it. How the hell does a sign end up costing this kind of money?”

I couldn’t really leave it here, though. So, I got curious and went to look at The Manual of Traffic Signs, which has a web presence. In it I found a listing on the price of traffic signs, which was five years old… but the most recent pricing I could find:

Sign panels:

• Regulatory/Warning/Marker: $15 to 18 / sq.ft.

• Large Guide Signs: $20 to 25 / sq.ft.

• Electronic Variable Message Sign: $50,000 to $150,000 each

Sign Posts:

• U-Channel: $125 to $200 each

• Square Tube (Telespar): $10 to $15 per foot

• Large Steel Breakaway Posts: $15 to $30 per foot

• Cantilever Sign: $15,000 to $20,000 each

• Sign Bridge: $30,000 to $60,000 each


• Square Tube: $150 – $250 each

• Breakaway Post: $250 to $750 each

• Cantilever / Bridge: $6,000 – $7,000 each

Interesting… these signs are pretty expensive as listed, and there is no information with Georgia’s complaint as quoted as to the size of these signs and how they are suspended or mounted. But even a 4′ x 8′ steel sign should only cost $500.00 dollars or less (unless the costs have gone up 400% or so since 2003)… and even if it were suspended from a bridge, say, by a U-channel, the whole of a sign would cost $680.00.

So why do we get quotes at $1200 to $4000 for a small sign when a huge Highway sign goes for under $700.00? Is the contractor markup so high? And we aren’t using a state agency to put them up… because?

Time to get a handle on costs of these things and, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t think going to private consultants is paying off on this or anything.

Under The LobsterScope


  1. I’d guess 8’x8′ signs, think I snapped a pic or two of them I’ll try to dig up.

    The funny thing about this, though, is that if it is Stimulus money we are talking about – and the main purpose of Stimulus money is to get itself spent – then sign companies making a few bucks (and therefore paying their employees, paint suppliers, etc) is intrinsically part of the whole reason for stimulus funds in the first place.

    Lemme go see if I can find those pics…

  2. twsmithca

    I dunno, I’m still counting, but they decided they don’t screw in light bulbs, so they outsourced a new lighting system to some contractor.  He replaced the light bulb, and the bureaucrats are happy with the new lighting system.  We’ll have to get back to you once the GAO tells us how much they think it cost.

    The sign costs what it costs.  Whether it’s 400 or 4,000 – the bids that go out should eventually yield what it can be done for on the open market, by private business.

    When government does do things without leveraging the private sector, there are still costs which are embedded and difficult to determine how much the actual cost is.  Surely more than $400 or $4000, if they have the capabilities, knowledge, and equipment needed to produce the product or service.

    I like the e-bidding system for government contracts.  It pretty much eliminates fraud and corruption.  And it seems to wind up yielding a fairly reasonable product at a lower price.  The difficulty for business is figuring out where they will make some profit while still keeping themselves in the race.  Note that the low bid does not always win.

    An example for this is the Singapore government.  Another small island city-state I admit, but there is NO reason why the US federal and state governments should not be leveraging this modern technology solution to the age old problem.  As long as tenders are written clearly and fairly, anyone who meets whatever minimum qualifications should be able to win the contract.

    Doing a quick search I found several examples of e-bidding.  I also saw some universities in the US, as well as state & local governments.

    Philippines:…  Note the extensive savings they realized during their pilot alone.

    Hong Kong:… Note who they are… not HK gov’t, but outsourced to operate HK’s two gov’t procurement services.

    World Bank: http://siteresources.worldbank

Comments are closed.