Does this sign mean it's OK to wear polka dots now?

Thomas B. forwards this photo from outside the Old State House and wonders what this sign is trying to tell people.




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A reflector for car headlights to demonstrate the presence of a pole/island of pedestrians. Federal standard (OM1-2) is 3x3:
Not sure why they went 5x5.

Massachusetts standard for these markers is

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yellow reflectors ** on a yellow background (MUTCD OM1-1). They are typically used NOT to mark hazards like poles, but to denote locations such as the "gore" where exit ramps leave from freeways. Per the Massachusetts MUTCD Amendments, state standards^^ A) call for these markers to be used only where traffic can pass immediately on either side of the gore and B) do not allow these markers to be used with other warning or regulatory signs mounted on the same pole..

For a brief period in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, MassDPW permitted their sign contractors to use the OM1-2 panel (black background) instead of the OM1-1 one (yellow background). They eventually went back to the yellow background once experience showed that locations with the newer black background signs had a 50 to 60 percent higher replacement rate than those with the older yellow background signs.

** the 'reflectors' on these signs are supposed to be either separate plastic reflectors or separately applied 'dots' made from prismatic high intensity sheeting materials - the yellow backgrounds are supposed to have minimal retroreflectivity, and are typically fabricated from either Engineer or Super Engineer grade sheeting - this is to maximize contrast between the background and the reflectors. However, BTD typically cheats and makes these signs through a silk screen process, which provides nearly NO contrast between the background and the reflectors.

^^ Per Mass. General Laws Chapter 85, Section 2, all traffic control devices installed on local streets and roads in all cities and towns (including Boston) in the state must conform to the MUTCD.

Grove St

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And then there's this bizarro-world twin of the sign at Grove St in Somerville, which is black on yellow:

It looks kind of old -- was it yellow-on-yellow and the reflectors fell off, leaving black dots? Or perhaps something else.

(Another fun thing is that this street stub is marked one-way towards the permanently locked gate.)

It is warning drivers

In a general sense, it is warning drivers to not even think about driving across that plaza.

Look at the larger intersection and it is clear why it would need to be there, but not say anything. There is one needed where Beacon splits into Bay State and Beacon, too.

presumably it is there to say

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presumably it is there to say "don't recreate the boston massacre by running over tourists on this little plaza"

At locations with pedestrian activity

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the standard is to mount signs so that the bottom of the panel is 7 feet above the road. This is to minimize the chance of people walking into the sign and splitting their skills open.

Got it

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It's an enormous No-Pest-Strip