The Original US Shield Modern US 47 shieldThe United States Highway Sign

Possible Futures

Site created and maintained by Robert V. Droz.

Why change the sign? With the history lesson over, this is the opinion / editorial page. To go back to the history page, click here.

My Opinion: The current US highway sign is currently the same color as the speed limit signs. The US highway sign is commonly found on the same style square metal plate as well, possibly causing confusion in motorists. The US highway sign is also the same color as many state highway markers. The generic state highway shields in use by many states are circles on black backgrounds or simple white squares with numbers, maybe the state's name. (Cleck here to go to the another page I maintain, dedicated to proposing remedies to this 'Boring Old State Route Sign' dilemma.)

The colors: FHWA has identified three colors as suitable for use in highway signs that are not in use today. These are coral, light blue, and purple. These were used as often as possible in the proposed schemes below. Colors currently approved for use by the FHWA are green, yellow, brown, white, red, black, orange, and strong yellow-green. Colors not in use or approved by FHWA, but shown below include turquoise, dark blue, tan, sea-green, olive, teal, and hot pink. These other colors were added because of dissimilarity to other colors proposed and in use.

The cost: Since the current situation with potentially confusing shields is not life threatening or overly inconveniencing, the US shields could be changed slowly, replacing the old black and white signs with new ones as they wear out. In Florida's experience, a colored US shield is no more expensive than a MUTCD standard one. The orange (US 41) and yellow (US 17 et. al.) did have to be replaced more often due to fading than a standard black and white. Even today in some states, a few US shields still have on the early 1930's style state name in the banner, so replacement may be slow. On the other hand, most states were very quick to replace the 55 mph signs after NMSL was repealed. For that matter, the Florida "Rainbow" system worked without confusing the public, the remaining signs from the color era still function adequately. California and Virginia still use cut-out style US shields instead of square blanks in places. There is no good reason other than monolithic conformity to not allow those types of signs in the MUTCD.

"Then again, that's my opinion, I could be wrong." -Dennis Miller

The column on the far right shows the votes so far. Please E-mail me with your favorite(s).
So far, blue numbers on a white cutout with a red upper US banner (#7) is preferredby those, with a green shield (#11) being the second most popular choice.
Another favorite choice seems to be 'do nothing', people like the staid black and white.

#1 Coral shield with a black background. Coral might be too close in color to orange and red. 1
#2 Light blue shield with a black background. My light blue is much like white, perhaps too much like to be used alone. 2
#3 Purple shield with a white background. Purple on black was too hard to see, but purple and white showed up nicely. 1
#4 White shield with a purple background. 3
#5 Light blue shield with a purple background. Attempting a mix of approved colors. 0
#6 Strong yellow-green (chartreuse?) shield with a black background. It is an FHWA approved color, now entering wider service at school crossings. 1
#7 White shield with a red legend and blue letters, a variation on the interstate coloring. (See #31 below for a state-name variant) 10
#8 White shield with a blue legend and red letters, a variation on the interstate coloring. (See #32 below for a state-name variant) 5
#9 White shield with on a green background, with black numbers. Green is possibly the best existing color for US signs. Red and blue are in use on interstates. Yellow and blue is the national county route colors. This style is similar to certain states' state highway shield, notably South Dakota, in color scheme. This type of style emulates Big Green Signs (a.k.a. BGS). Kansas may have used some of these. (1) 2
#10 White shield with a green background. 4
#11 Green shield with a white background. One of the color style used on Florida's colored US signs for US 23, US 27, US 192, and US 331. The same or a simliar style has been seen in Arizona. A downside is the current use of this color scheme by Interstate Business routes. 6
#12 White shield outline with a green background. Has been used on overhead signs in certain states like California for many years. Kansas used this style sign on US 56.(1) 5
#13 Light blue shield with a dark blue background. I was starting to experiment with new colors, and navy blue is a nice one, similar to the color of the county route shield. 1
#14 Dark blue shield with a white background, the biggest differences from the interstate sign on this one is the lack of a red banner area and shield shape. 4
#15 Tan shield with a black outline on a white background. Tan should be far enough from yellow, brown, and white to be independently noticed. 2
#16 Turquoise shield with a black outline on a white background. A bright hued mix of green and blue, two non-warning colors. 0
#17 Yellow shield with a black outline on a white background. Florida used this scheme on US 17, US 231, US 301 and US 319. It is clear and easy to read, but uses a color reserved for warning signs. One early proposal was for yellow instead of white on the US highway shield. 3
#18 Black shield with a yellow background. Very owl-like. 1
#19 Light blue shield with a black outline on a white background. 1
#20 Coral shield with a black outline on a white background. 2
#21 White shield on a brown background. Another tried and tested Florida coloring scheme, Used on Alt US 129. Brown is suggestive of parklands and historic sites, but works nicely as a US highway color. 2
#22 British Petroleum colors. BP's symbol is similar to the interstate shield, but they are going to be pulling their brand name out of the US, freeing the color scheme. 0
#23 Hot pink shield on a white background. It is far enough from red to be useful? I think so. 1
#24 Sea green shield with a black outline on a white background. Sea green has been around transportation a long time, usually as a color for painting traffic signals and lampposts. 2
#25 Blue numbers, red outline. Another use of national colors. 0
#26 Blue and white, European style variant of #12. 0
#27 Teal background and white shield, another color to experiment with, just off green and blue. 0
#28 White background and teal shield, the obverse. 1
#29 Olive background and white shield, another color to experiment with, just off green and yellow. 0
#30 White background and olive shield, the obverse. 0
#31 A variant of #7, maybe it is time the state name made a comeback? 1
#32 A variant of #8, maybe it is time the state name made a comeback? 1

Didn't like those? Think you can do better? Try coloring this US 38 shield (10kb .bmp format) which is about the same size as those shown above. If you come up with something at this size you think stacks up well with those above, send it in. It you just want to run wild and need lots of room to color, try this US 103 shield (14kb .bmp format, zipped). It should just about fill your computer screen. If you come up with something good at that size, reduce it to the postage-stamp size of the shields above before you send it in. I will only post additional US shields at the 50 x 50 pixels size. If I use your shield, you will get credit.

Perhaps the United States could use multiple colors in a nationwide scheme like Florida used to. (For more of these signs, click here to see my Florida page). More than one of these would be needed then. You could follow a highway of a single color a long way in addition to the number. I doubt AASHTO would decide Florida had the right idea after all this time. Colors shown above that might fit this sort of scheme: Lt. Blue, Purple, Coral, Tan, Hot Pink, Sea Green, Teal, Olive, Turquoise, Green, Brown, and Blue. If too many conflicts start to occur the colors Gold, Salmon Pink, Grey, Maroon, Orange Red and Violet Red could be explored.

New state signs State Highway Makeover : Take a look at some revisions of state highway shields, which have a lot more room to be creative under the MUTCD than US highway shields. This web page is growing as new designs are submitted by people like you. If any state actually adopts a new highway shield, you may see it here first. (Formerly part of C.C. Slater's website.)

To go back to the US highway shield history page, click here.

If you any have thoughts, comments, additions, suggestions, or votes for your favorite sign, E-mail me, or post it to misc.transport.road.

To To US highways US Highways : From US 1 to (US 830)

Last update to this page on Monday, February 07, 2000 10:45:36 AM Eastern Standard Time.

Specific contributions:
(1) Chris Knight, Kansas