RD8 - Amtrak Station Wayfinding Signage Report – 2019

Executive Summary:

Chapter 553 of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly directed the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to work with relevant stakeholders to evaluate existing highway signs in the Commonwealth of Virginia indicating the location and direction of nearby intercity passenger rail stations and the use of Amtrak intercity passenger rail at those stations. This directive included four evaluation requirements:

• Create an inventory of existing passenger rail wayfinding signs;
• Evaluate their costs;
• Review wayfinding signage in other states, and
• Identify potential funding sources for the signs.

Currently, there are 182 wayfinding signs for 20 Amtrak stations throughout the Commonwealth.(*1) Amtrak procured these signs through the Virginia Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for the placement and maintenance of the signs on state maintained highways. Prior to this report’s completion, an accurate inventory did not exist because many signs were procured prior to the start of state-sponsored service in the Commonwealth.

DRPT also examined whether there is a need to replace current signs or construct new signs. As part of the review, DRPT considered the following:

• Traffic volumes;
• Existing station ridership;
• Local sign ordinances;
• Federal and VDOT sign design standards and guidelines;
• Review of large format wayfinding signage options; and
• Input from the existing signage inventory.

Based on the presence and condition of existing wayfinding signage, DRPT identified potential locations for installing and/or replacing signage at each of the stations. This study determined there is a need to replace 55 signs throughout the Commonwealth at an approximate cost of $61,000.(*2) DRPT also identified potential locations for an additional 174 signs at a total cost of approximately $1.4 million. At this time, DRPT only recommends proceeding with replacing the 55 signs if an appropriate funding source is located. Additional research will be needed to determine the effectiveness of the current signs before proceeding with the full implementation of this report.

A summary of current, replacement, and potential signs and total cost per station is displayed on page 4 of the report.

The legislation also directed DRPT to examine the possibility of replicating the passenger rail promotional signage used by other states, specifically the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Like Virginia, North Carolina operates its own Amtrak state-sponsored service. The North Carolina signs have website and phone numbers to encourage use of its statesponsored services. Coordination with VDOT staff indicated that websites and phone numbers are not permitted on signs within Virginia as per the Virginia-adopted Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Therefore, potential large format signs can be designed as guide signs meeting Virginia’s supplemental sign design standards.

DRPT also explored funding sources at the federal, state, and other outside sources for potential use in the payment of installing signs to indicate the presence of Amtrak and intercity train stations. Potential sources include:

• Amtrak Great American Stations Project Trailblazer Signage Kits, an application-based program for localities;

• Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund (IPROC);(*3)

• Federal Funding Sources;
o Surface Transportation Block Grant Program: Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside
o Flexible Funding Programs - Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (23 USC 133)

• Local Funding Sources
o Local government funding

Moving forward, DRPT recommends the following approach:

• The Commonwealth and its localities will replace signs as recommended in this report if funding is available. Due to the limit on available funding in the IPROC program, DRPT proposes that localities pursue funding from the Amtrak Great American Stations Project. DRPT will work with localities in completing the application process.

• At a future time, if DRPT determines that the current and updated signs are effective in encouraging individuals to use passenger rail services, the Commonwealth will explore adding new signs at high ridership stations that state-sponsored passenger trains service. This step is contingent upon available funds from any of the proposed sources.
(*1) The 20 Amtrak stations include three stations, Clifton Forge, Danville, and Staunton, which do not receive service from a state-sponsored train. DRPT also excluded the Lorton Station from the survey due to its unique business structure as an Auto Train station.
(*2) The data includes some signs that may be upgraded and moved to a new location on an existing structure (i.e. moving from the side of a highway signpost to cantilevered) so those costs are included in this list. Some stations have no cost associated, but are shown to have some existing sign improvement activities. This is because activities such as clearing vegetation, fixing a dented pole, etc. did not have costs associated with them for the purposes of the study.
(*3) In DRPT’s current Six Year Improvement Program, IPROC is fully committed to infrastructure projects, including the Long Bridge project and accompanying statewide projects, as well as the operating costs of the six daily roundtrip state-sponsored services originating in Virginia.