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V1 Media, the publisher of Informed Infrastructure Magazine, is an approved AIA continuing-education provider. AIA-approved courses are a valid form of Learning Units (LU) and Professional Development Hours (PDH) for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industries via self-learning courses in all states.

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Helical Piles: Best-by-Test Foundation Solution for Traffic Signs, Bollards, Emergency Call Boxes and Airport Taxiway Light


Darin Willis, P.E, and Justin Presley

Learning Objectives

• Describe the basic mechanism of a helical pile used as a traffic sign foundation system.

• Explain the function and importance of the Sign Dart’s “floating collar with fin plates.”

• Understand the source of efficiency gains from the use of helical piles for regulatory object foundation systems, when compared to conventional foundations systems.

• Describe the performance of the Sign Dart foundation system when installed in clay and sandy soils as well as when subjected to tension and lateral loads, especially as compared to national standards for sign mounting systems.


Although it’s difficult to find official estimates for the number of traffic signs in the United States, given the near-ubiquity of signs (e.g., Stop, Speed Limit, Yield, Do Not Enter, One-Way Road, Railroad Crossing, Wrong Way, No U-Turn and many others), it seems safe to put the number in the hundreds of millions. And that doesn’t count “non-sign” regulatory objects such as call boxes, bollards and airport taxiway lights.

All of those signs and objects need to be supported somehow, and they can’t just be stuck in the ground. They need a durable, high-quality foundation that will hold up indefinitely in all weather conditions, meet (in many cases) the standards of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), while also working effectively with the “breakaway” sign-mounting systems that make driving much safer for everyone.

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