Leading the way in Polk

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, May 29, 2018

County to begin first stage of wayfinding signs project

COLUMBUS — Visitors as well as locals will soon have directional signs to destinations in Polk County.

The Polk County Tourism Department is seeking North Carolina Department of Transportation approval, and is sending out bids for the first phase of wayfinding signs throughout the county.

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The project will be done in three phases, with the first phase including installation of signs later this summer.

Polk County Tourism Director Melinda Massey said bidding for phase I is scheduled for May and June, with contractor selection scheduled for July and fabrication and installation late in this summer.

The total project will include 108 signs, with phase I including 49 signs, placed on the county’s main thoroughfares. Phase II will include 24 signs and the final phase will include 35 signs in the downtown areas of Columbus, Saluda and Tryon, with Massey saying the county will have to coordinate with the towns for those signs.

Massey said the signs are designed to blend in and be a part of the landscape.

“Our goal is to be pointing people to places they can eat, places they can stay,” Massey said. “Tryon, Saluda and Columbus will all be featured regularly.”

Of the signs throughout the county, 86 will be wayfinding signs, which have three destinations, an arrow and the mileage to the destination. There will be 23 smaller “Blaze” signs, which will state a destination with an arrow.

There are two sizes of wayfinding signs, including larger ones with 6-inch text and smaller ones with 4-inch text.

The wayfinding signs include Polk County’s logo at the top, the destinations and a mountainscape at the bottom. Massey said the smaller wayfinding signs can be used on roads with lower speed limits.

The cost of the signs is not yet known, but all funding will be taken from the Polk County occupancy tax revenue. Massey told commissioners last week there is a little over $100,000 set aside from occupancy tax set aside for this project.

Examples of destinations to be featured on the county’s wayfinding sings include the three towns, outdoor recreation, winery tours, farm tours, tubing, hiking, camping, shops, dining and lodging.

The county contracted with JM Teague Engineering and Planning, with work on the designs beginning in October 2017. Massey said the process has included identifying Polk County destinations that fit the NCDOT criteria, driving roads to review intersections and current signage and creating a final set of sign designs and specifications. The signs will be placed in the NCDOT right of way.

“Wayfinding is directional signage to help reduce confusion and increase awareness and enjoyment for visitors and locals alike,” Massey said.