Jan 22, 2024 - News

Iowa's funny highway signs are under review amidst new federal rules

Illustration of a highway electronic sign doing a standup routine. The sign reads, "So what's the deal with..."

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Friends, carpoolers and road ragers: We gather here not to curse out the feds, but to mourn the amusing highway signs they're killing.

Driving the news: The U.S. Federal Highway Administration's war on fun, once solely waged against New Jersey, has spread nationwide.

  • The electronic highway messages that bring some levity during traffic jams will be phased out by 2026 under new federal rules

Why it matters: To know Iowa drivers is to love them in spite of hanging out in the left lane or failing at zipper merging.

What's happening: The highway administration wants messages that are "simple, direct, brief, legible and clear."

  • The administration's new manual cautions against signs that are "intended to be humorous" or have pop culture references, lest they be misunderstood by drivers.

What they're saying: The Iowa DOT is reviewing the new recommendations and will spend the next few weeks determining how it will impact the state's message program, spokesperson Andrea Henry tells Axios.

The bottom line: Back in 2015, Tracey Bramble of the Iowa DOT said it best about the clever messaging:

  • "We're doing this to try to save lives," Bramble told the Register. "We're not doing it to get a chuckle. … We're trying to change people's behavior."
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