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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill to install $15,000 in way-finding signs

Officials will search for darker blue

Tar Heel blue fire trucks, buses and street signs are common sights in Chapel Hill — but many drivers have voiced concerns about the readability of white letters on a light blue background for the town’s new way-finding signs.

The first two signs on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard are part of a 40-sign effort worth $15,000 to guide visitors to key locations like libraries, parks and downtown.

“If we want to welcome people to Chapel Hill, one thing we want to do is help them get around,” said Anita Badrock, operations manager at Community Home Trust, who has lived in Chapel Hill for more than 30 years. “I don’t know why we have this color.”

The signs were first introduced on the town website in a deeper blue, which became brighter after a reflective covering was added to comply with N.C. Department of Transportation rules to make the signs more readable at night.

But after receiving feedback from residents, Chapel Hill will be replacing the two pilot signs and putting the new signs in a darker color.

The first two signs will be replaced at no cost.

“The whole purpose of having pilot signs is to test them out and make sure we have a good color and design scheme,” town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said.

Anne Whisnant, director of research, communication and programs for the University Office of Faculty Governance, has lived in Chapel Hill since 1989. She said she couldn’t figure out what the signs were the first time she drove by.

“If you’re the random person coming into town and you’re driving, trying not to hit somebody, and if you’re relying on a sign like that you’re probably less familiar with the area, you won’t have time to assimilate and squint to read the signs,” she said.

Lazorko said residents shouldn’t worry about the signs being too similar to the colors at Duke University.

“There are many shades of blue, and we’re very sensitive to choosing the right shade,” she said. “I’m hoping we can come up with a darker blue that might work. If we can’t, we might have to come up with a different color.”

Lazorko said despite the possibility that the light blue signs would lead people to the University rather than their various destinations, it was better not to introduce too many new color palettes to Chapel Hill.

“If we have one consistent theme, it’s generally a better way to go.”

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