Rte. 9 scenic byway next left

Brown sign

Bravo, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, for defying national "standards" on what makes a good highway exit sign.

Just because the entire rest of the country indicates exits with white lettering on green signs doesn't mean motorists on Hammond Pond Parkway and Rte. 9 in Newton need suffer such boring uniformity. Take that, people who think brown signs are just for noting the location of historic or scenic sites! Well, unless DCR is telling us that the new and rebuilt malls on Rte. 9 are historic, or that the faux stones painted on the Chestnut Hill Mall retaining walls are scenic.

Bonus points go to DCR for finally re-using the bold layout of the old MDC Metro Parkways signs, some of which can still be found on our local parkways. Can we expect DCR to re-paint those signs in brown, though?



Free tagging: 



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Am I missing something? Are we really going to get outraged/complain about the color of a road sign?

Sure, why not?

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Yeah, I realize the Boston area has 99 problems and this isn't really one of them (as opposed to writers overusing inane song lyrics). I'm not trying to incite rioting in the streets or sign-carrying protests at the State House.

But as somebody who currently takes that road every day (doing some freelance work up in Newtonville), I did find the signs kind of bizarre when I first saw them a few days ago. And when one of the traffic lights that just got installed there turned red and I had nothing better to do, yeah, I took a picture.

What if

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If there were sign-carrying protests...what color would the signs be?


I don't know what website you're looking at, but I don't see any outrage here at UniversalHub. All I see is some jesting and questioning.

A nit, but..

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'Feds pay for it' = 'we pay for it'


Quiet you.

Besides, we don't get all our money back from the Fed. MA is a teat state.

Still referencing that

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Still referencing that debunked map that included Social Security payments? C'mon swirlykins...

"National Standards"!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Like the highway departments in Massachusetts would ever follow any standard for anything, ever. Sheesh. You should be happy that this sign actually includes three pieces of information: 1) The street name/number, 2) the cardinal direction, 3) a location you can reach in that direction.

Most DCR signs would just say "Boston" (or "Brookline Village", or "Museum of Fine Arts" or something like that), and let you suss it out for yourself.

The classic DCR/MDC signage example that I'll never forget was (maybe 20 years ago?) when they decided that the best way to get people to yield when entering the JP rotaries was to post non-standard white signs with small black letters that said:

It's the law.
Vehicles in the rotary
have the right of way.

Instead of, you know, triangular red-and-white signs saying "YIELD".

Another great one

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The Franklin Park Zoo sign near the Common that doesn't exactly spell out that you're 5 miles away or that there's a billion red lights if you go the way it wants you to go.

Yeah, the small informational

Yeah, the small informational signs are pretty much uniformly terrible. "Auto Museum"!

But the problem with traffic signs at intersections and exits is much worse. You'll come to an intersection and the choices will be "<- Watertown" and "Newton ->" with no indication of what the streets are named or which direction they run. Or you'll get to the end of Memorial Drive and there will be a sign saying "Downtown Boston" or "Kendall Square" with no mention of the Longfellow Bridge, Cambridge Street, Broadway or Main Street.

And of course the DCR still hasn't even figured out that it's possible to post "Keep Right" and similar signs at clusterfuck intersections like the one at Alewife and the one at the Eliot Bridge. I'm surprised there aren't head-on collisions weekly at those places.

They can color the signs whatever color they want if they actually provide drivers with useful, complete information.

I can do you one better

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There's a Franklin Park Zoo sign on Newbury Street, approximately halfway between the Public Garden and Copley Square.

My favorite, though, is the sign for the MFA in Packard's Corner, with an arrow pointing down Commonwealth Avenue. There's no direct way from Packard's Corner to the MFA.

Wow. Nice to see that

Wow. Nice to see that tradition is alive and well at DCR. Let's see, there's four arrows, so we'll give drivers vague, imprecise information about two of them.

Hammond St. or Hammond Pond Parkway?

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Adam, I'm a little confused as to where this is. Did you mean Route 9 and Hammond Pond Parkway, where the nightmarish construction is ongoing? The intersection of Hammond St. and Rt. 9 is wholly contained within Brookline (the town line is about 50-100 yards north of Rt. 9 on Hammond St. (north of the line is Newton, south is Brookline)). Hammond St. gets so narrow when it enters Newton from the south that I don't think a sign of that size could even be placed anywhere along its length.

I am also a little surprised that I haven't seen it yet as it's in my neck of the woods (unless it is on Hammond Pond Parkway, which I have avoided because of said construction). That would also provide some reason as to why DCR is involved (I am not sure that Hammond St. is anything other than a city/town road anywhere along its length, even though with its 4 lanes south of Rt. 9 it has the feel of a DCR parkway).

Almost certainly Hammond Pond Pkwy

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Now that I'm looking at this again, I am almost certain it's Hammond Pond Parkway, as those bright green lamp posts look very much like the new ones that I have glimpsed the tops of from the Rt. 9 overpass.


I miss the old "Doghouse"

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I miss the old "Doghouse" style signs with the angled tops; they're very hard to spot anymore. Along with the scroll-top "Entering Placename" signs, they gave a distinctive character to the roads of Massachusetts.

Wow, I can't think of what

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Wow, I can't think of what you're referring to with the "Doghouse" style signs. Do you have a picture? The "Entering X" signs, sure, we all know 'em.

For decades, directional signs

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on secondary (i.e. non-freeway) roads in Massachusetts had cut corners at the top (instead of the rectangular signs they use now).

If you think about it, they sort of looked like the shape of a doghouse.

OTOH, the town line signs on secondary roads are still the same "bookleaf" shape they've always been.

I can almost picture what

I can almost picture what you're talking about but Google Images turns up nothing. I think they were already old-fashioned and somewhat rare when I was a kid in the 70s.

The "cut corner" signs

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were being phased out by the early 1970s. Depending on the part of the state you lived in, a number of the existing signs may have remained in place well into the late 1980s.

Did some of them have rounded

Did some of them have rounded tops? I seem to recall one outside of Kenmore Square, at the corner of Charlesgate and Beacon (?) westbound, that said "Worcester" and possibly "New York".

Rounded corners

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was a common MDC variation on the MassDPW "cut corner" design. And I recall the sign you're talking about. It did say "Worcester New York".

Used to be all along 128

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Way before my day, but I read about them in one of those books that's mostly old photos with some captions that's about 128 (the more fascinating part for me was how what we know as 128 is actually the second 128 - the first was cobbled together out of existing roads, such as Walnut Street in Newton, about 2 or 3 miles closer to downtown from the current road).

Sadly, my favorite highway sign was taken down a couple years ago.

Aww, that's gone? I remember

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Aww, that's gone? I remember the first time I saw that sign I thought "WTF??" I will also add that those signs didn't help me get to 128.

Unless earlier, pre-interstate road configurations made the destination of Newport, RI seem less random?

Yes!!! I was thinking of a

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Yes!!! I was thinking of a real peaked roof, but the corners on these signs were just notched, right?

Also, were the sides tapered?

Oh my--we are such Massachusetts dorks, aren't we? :-)

Examples of old "Doghouse" style highway signs

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There's an example of the old "cut-cornered" or "doghouse" style Massachusetts highway sign in this picture from the BPL collection. It's facing the other way so we can't see what it reads, so this is one of those "where is it?" pictures:

Here's a newer example from Route 30:

There's two on this page from Route 62 (scroll halfway down):

And this page has an example from Watertown, pointing the way to Waltham and Lexington (scroll 3/4 ways down):

In the 1960's this style of sign was all over the state, but they were white with black lettering.


Thanks for the links. These

Thanks for the links. These pictures bring back a lot of memories, and confirm that the doghouse signs were old-fashioned even when I was a kid.

Love, love, love the old (non-doghouse) Tobin Bridge signs, too. I used to drive over that thing all the time.

Tobin Bridge was to have been I-95

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As you might know, I-95 was originally going to use the Tobin Bridge, before that plan was halted by Governor Sargent in the 1970's. That's why there was the sign on the bridge that read "To 95 North".The interchange at Route 60 in Revere still has extra ramps where I-95 would diverge from US-1 before proceeding through Rumney Marsh and Lynn Woods. Fortunately, Lynn Woods was never touched, but a portion of the elevated fill roadbed for I-95 was constructed through the marsh.

Today, ironically, the residents of Saugus are fighting with the MDC/DCR to keep the old roadbed in place:

It's Obama's fault

Obama's stimulus at work, right here. Look at this BS! Where's the accountability?

Oh, but I heard it started under Bush, though!

And he got the idea from Clinton!

Who modified it based on a different program under Bush Senior!!1!1one

But in all seriousness, yes, that could be possible. Though I doubt they can get away with it often enough for it to even significantly benefit them? I'm sure there's plenty of signs to keep them busy as is. I think the biggest scam going is "Plows Use Caution"... Oh, come on...

Maybe I'm just crazy for liking this kind of stuff

I came here via college from Maryland, the land of uniform signs and sane roads. Driving is more fun there, but the entire state pretty much is exactly the same. It's functional and all, but is pretty dull. It's just like anywhere in the US.

Here you get awesomeness like REVERSE CURVE and ROTARY, and my personal favorite the bizarre wording of


When that format was originally developed

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in the 1930s or so, "PEDESTRIANS" was much larger than "DRIVE" and "SLOW". The concept was that the word "PEDESTRIANS" would get the driver's attention, then they would notice the supplemental "DRIVE SLOW" message.

The problem with this format is that, for several years, MDC and DCR have been fabricating such signs so that all the legend is the same size. This is in keeping with the MDC/DCR tradition that signs are ugly and should be as small as possible to preserve the asthetics of their "parkways".

Of course, such text signs were eliminated (in facor of the current graphic man signs) from the Federal and state standards in the early 1970s, so DCR shouldn't be posting them at all. But that's a discussion for a different time.

And yes, once upon a time, such signs were commonplace in other states like Maryland. So it's not just a Massachusetts thing.

I'm not sure I buy this

I'm not sure I buy this explanation. The archetypal sign from my childhood was "GO CHILDREN SLOW" which was all over the place, but not on MDC roads. It was a diamond-shaped yellow sign with all the letters the same size, but the word "Children" was in the middle so that it would fit. I don't recall ever seeing a sign with different-sized letters on it, and I recall seeing dozens or hundreds of signs with same-size letters on non-MDC roads before they were mostly replaced by "skipping kiddies" signs.

The original, and proper, design

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for the sign would have "Children" larger than "Go" and "Slow". However, you are correct that, in later years, signs would be fabricated with the legend all the same size. As I stated, this was so smaller sign blanks could be used (MDC's concern was asthetics, whereas other communities' concern was cost).

"GO CHILDREN SLOW" was commonplace on local streets, especially in Eastern Massachusetts, and also appeared on some MDC roads where I grew up (Lynn, Saugus, and Melrose).

They're not just national standards

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It's state law as well. From MGL Chapter 85, Section 2:

Except as hereinafter provided, any rule, regulation, order, ordinance or by-law of a city or town hereafter made or promulgated relative to or in connection with the erection or maintenance of signs, traffic control signals, traffic devices, school zones, parking meters or markings on any way within its control shall take effect without department approval provided such signs, traffic control signals, traffic devices, parking meters, school zones or markings are in conformance with the department’s current manual on uniform traffic control devices (emphasis added) and it’s sample regulation for a standard municipal traffic code;

The MassDOT MUTCD is the Federal MUTCD, with the addition of amendments covering more stringent requirements specific to Massachusetts.

And for those of you who are stating "what's the big deal" here, then suppose somebody were to go out and install a green stop sign at the end of your street. It's an octagon, it says 'STOP", so it should be fine - right? Not!

That's hilarious

That Massachusetts has laws about how street signs should be designed. Those get observed about as often as the "no turn on red" laws...

Every state has similar laws

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on the books. For one thing, it's to promote the concept of uniform standards.

For another thing, the consequences of not following the law are far more serious than just a reprimand from the Legislature or the state highway department. If a crash occurs at a location, and the traffic controls are deemed to be non-conforming and contributed to the crash, the community or agency that installed the signs or signals will likely be facing serious liability issues.


I have no doubt that you know

I have no doubt that you know the laws far better than I, but the objective reality that surrounds us indicates that any potential liability issues are insignificant enough to be ignored by virtually every municipality and agency in the state.

With respect, I attribute that attitude to a lack of foresight

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on the part of local communities that are obsessed with unnecessary penny-pinching when it comes to traffic controls. The cost difference between non-standard signs and standard ones - or a single yellow line versus the correct double yellow line - is negibible at best.

This isn't a question of

This isn't a question of "right sign" vs. "wrong sign", it's a question of "some signs" vs. "no signs" at a complex, non-standard intersection like the one at Alewife.

At that brilliant interchange, you have no lighting at night, no "keep right" or any other kind of signs to indicate whether you're even driving onto the correct piece of roadway, and two roads merge together IN THE CENTER OF THE INTERSECTION with simultaneous green lights and no special signage at all (I don't think there's even a "merge" sign).

So first off, the DCR is, apparently saving a nontrivial amount of money by not installing or maintaining a dozen or more signs that would be required by any reasonable uniform highway code.

But more importantly to your earlier point, if the potential liability issues you mentioned were any kind of actual deterrent, that intersection would not have existed in its current form for the last 30 years or whatever.

Maybe what they're thinking is

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Brown signs are traditionally used for parks, so that's probably what the DCR is thinking, even though it's not actually a sign for a park. (Maybe it was made in a centralized factory by someone who didn't know Hyde Park isn't actually a park?)


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Gold Star for you!

The abovementioned MUTCD has a section on Recreational & Cultural Interest Areas (which includes park systems).

Regulatory and warning signs shall meet all the requirements of other sections.

Guide signs in these Recreational & Cultural Interest Areas shall be rectangular, brown background, white symbols, white border.