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State considers sign removals on Route 15

Teresa Grable

(3/1) The State Highway Administration (SHA) has announced its intention to replace existing signs on Route 15 for local attractions, like signs for the Fire Academy and the Seton Shrine, with more generic "corridor" signs. Under the new signage program called "Tourism Area & Corridor" (TAC), signs for local community attractions will only be visible to travelers once they are on the secondary road leading to the community.

The proposed plan has not gone over well with local organizations that depend upon tourists. John Fieseler of the Frederick County Tourism Office said the program has already had adverse impacts on Frederick. Signs for the City of Frederick, which contained six specific attraction names, were replaced last year with new TAC signs that only list "Historic Frederick and Monocacy National Battlefield."

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine reported that when they had their name on the highway signs, 23% – 25% of the visitors reported that they came because of seeing those signs. Since the signs came down last summer, the museum’s visitation has dropped by 21%.

Fieseler noted that 32% of the visitors to the Seton Shrine say they stopped in because of the highway signs. The 40,000+ visitors the Shrine draws each year benefit all the businesses in Emmitsburg, said Fiesler. Emmitsburg Mayor Briggs fears that a sign that only reads "Historic Emmitsburg," without the specific attraction names, would reduce the number of visitors to the town.

Fieseler stated that current signs have also been effective in reducing the motorist confusion that used to exist between the Grotto and Seton Shrine. He said the same is true for the parks Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont. "I would hate to see any of these helpful signs be removed," said Fieseler.

The SHA has not indicated when the current sights will be replaced. In the meantime, local elected officials and affected businesses and organizations have begun lobbying state representatives to put the breaks on the program.

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