ST. MARYS — City officials are in the preliminary stages regarding the feasibility of an electronic media sign for the interchange of U.S. 33 and Ohio 66.
St. Marys Safety-Service Director Eric Ostling told The Evening Leader officials recently held a teleconference with a consultant regarding the feasibility for the sign — which is proposed to be built on the high school’s property adjacent to westbound U.S. 33. Ostling stressed the project is early in its development. The project was mentioned earlier this year by city officials as a way to increase traffic into the city.
“Among the benefits is that it would be great for public announcements,” Ostling said of the media sign. “One of the main reasons for having a sign like this would be to draw attention to St. Marys from the interstate traffic and remind them there is more than a gas station and a fast food chain at our interchange. We want to draw them downtown and want people to drive down that route on a day-to-day basis, and let them know when things are happening, such as SummerFest, ahead of time so they remember it.”
Ostling also sees the sign as a possible way to attract additional tourism to the region.
“We need to bring tourism back into the city and bring those dollars back here,” Ostling said. “This sign would first and foremost be for economic development.”
The media sign also could be used for public service announcements regarding events taking place in and around St. Marys. Given the high traffic count at the interchange, Ostling said thousands of eyes a day would see what officials place on the sign.
“It’s a heavily used roadway and we could get a lot of exposure for the city,” Ostling said. “I can’t believe there would be any negatives, besides an initial cost, but the long-term benefits would outweigh any costs.”
Ostling did not have a cost estimate for a sign as there are several unknowns regarding the project. However, he noted the sign would be two-sided as to maximize its visibility to motorists.
“Everything is still preliminary, but we want to make sure we get the most for our money,” Ostling said. “We are early into the study, but we do know that it wouldn’t be very cost effective to do a one-sided sign. We are looking at a two-sided sign that needs to be large enough to catch the eye, yet still comply with ODOT standards for highway signs.”
The optimal date of installation would be in 2013, Ostling said.
“The sooner the better or I think we’ve missed an opportunity to bring in more revenue for any of our major events that St. Marys is known for,” Ostling said. “Our focus is certainly to bring in people from outside the area — that’s very important. We understand, and I think most would understand, that tourism is a large part of any of these local economies.”