Regional sign shops play a vital role in TxDOT’s mission
By Jeff Williford
A team of highly creative and dedicated employees within the Texas Department of Transportation is playing a vital role in fulfilling TxDOT's mission of "Connecting You with Texas."
Located at the TxDOT Regional Distribution Center and Sign Shop in Athens, Texas these employees demonstrate their expertise by producing an impressive annual output of around 23,000 signs and 40,000 decals. This volume of production alone is enough to cater to half the state's roadway signage needs, with the remaining half manufactured by the TxDOT sign shop in Lubbock, which produces approximately 17,000 signs a year.
Toby Rackley, the supervisor of the Athens Regional Supply Center, describes the shop's focus as primarily on "destination signs." This encompasses a wide range of signage, including railroad signs, mileage signs, rest area signs, large overhead interstate signs, and everything in between.
Around 15 years ago, the establishment of the Regional Sign Shops was a crucial step to ensure consistency in TxDOT's signage statewide. Prior to their inception, each individual TxDOT District was responsible for producing its own signs. However, the desire for uniformity led to the creation of the Regional Sign Shops.
"One of the District Engineers involved in establishing the Regional Sign Shops emphasized the importance of not being able to discern when leaving a district,” Rackley said. “That was the motivation behind their formation."
Across the vast expanse of Texas, there are thousands of distinctive signs gracing our roadways. While many of these signs may be familiar sights, there are also those that possess a truly unique character.
"One of my personal favorites, and certainly one of the most unique signs we've helped produce, were the Purple Heart Memorial Highway signs,” Rackley said. “It was a special experience to be part of such a meaningful project. We also have made signs for the Tom Landry Highway, featuring his iconic hat, and some “Watch for Rattlesnakes” signs for rest stops.”
While the production of signs can be diverse and varied, the ordering process has been refined to simplify the experience. When a TxDOT District requires a new sign, the designated point-of-contact within the district submits a request to the Regional Sign Shop, providing essential details such as size, quantity, and location.
Johnny Merrifield, the Regional Sign Shop Coordinator in Athens, assumes the responsibility of reviewing orders from across the state to ensure compliance with State and Federal laws.
“My role involves managing and overseeing the daily influx of requests we receive. With only two sign shops in Texas, we are responsible for the majority of road signs you encounter,” Merrifield said. “When you stop to think about it, that is a tremendous volume of signs."
The TxDOT Regional Sign Shops in Athens and Lubbock serve as a testament to the unwavering commitment to TxDOT's mission of "Connecting You with Texas." Their production of thousands of signs each year, combined with their dedication to maintaining uniformity, has an undeniable impact on Texas roadways. These efforts continue to shape and connect communities, leaving a lasting mark on the highways and byways of the Lone Star State.