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Authorities explain huge cost of highway signs

By Li Qian (Shanghai Daily)

08:20, July 19, 2012

TRAFFIC authorities in east China's Jiangsu Province have spent 200 million yuan (US$31.38 million) replacing 19,000 highway signs, expenditure that triggered suspicions of possible corruption or violations in the bidding process.

However, Jiangsu's communications department said the process had been strictly supervised and added that the total sum involved included the cost of both the thick aluminum plates and zinc-plated sign poles.

The signs, from six to 15 square meters in size, were rust-proof and used the latest high-tech reflective film, the authority said, adding that the poles, up to 7.5 meters high, were required to be extremely solid to take the huge weight of the signs, which added to the cost.

Changing the highway signs began in October 2009 to apply a unified naming system in accordance to the national standards, Qian Guochao, deputy director of the department, told the Modern Express newspaper. The updated standards were to make things clearer for drivers.

The expenditure, however, aroused controversy online.

"It's just a normal plate made from normal metal instead of gold. It's too pricy," a microblogger said on Weibo.com.

Others complained that high toll fees were being used to cover the expense.

Several highway sign producers told the newspaper that signs cost around 450 to 550 yuan per square meter and poles were around 5,000 to 6,500 yuan, which meant a sign of around 6 square meters, the smallest Jiangsu sign, would be around 9,000 yuan. The average price of the Jiangsu signs was around 10,500 yuan .

A manufacturer in the province's Gaoyou City told the newspaper that normally producers had to "grease officials' palms" to win bids, and thus the total cost was elevated by a third to two thirds.

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