Construction at the new state office building in November 2021. Adding wayfinding signs along Midwest Avenue to direct visitors to the new building, to the Old Yellowstone District and into downtown is an opportunity Community Development Director Liz Becher suggested on Tuesday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council resumed discussion of wayfinding during its work session on Tuesday, April 26, discussing whether to add new signs to help direct visitors around the community.

A previous city council in 2019 adopted a county-wide wayfinding plan prepared by RDG Planning & Design for the Casper Area Metropolitaion Planning Organization. The cost of adding the signage caused some sticker shock for the city council when it was revealed in July 2020 that installing 185 signs across Casper would cost about $1.44 million.

Rather than paying for the signs all at once, the city could instead roll out the signage over time by including money for wayfinding along with the budget for specific streets projects as those come up, Community Development Director Liz Becher said Tuesday.

Some of the upcoming projects where adding wayfinding signage might be appropriate include a project to enhance Center Street and other areas along Interstate 25, the final phase of Midwest Avenue reconstruction near the new State Office Building, and a “western gateway” project the Casper Area MPO is initiating to welcome visitors coming from the airport into the greater community, Becher said.

Should the city adopt the method to add wayfinding signage on a project-by-project basis, City Manager Carter Napier said money for the signs would be added to budgets for reconstruction projects along major roads such as Poplar or McKinley Street over time.

The individual signs have an estimated cost of $2,500–$6,500 depending on the type of sign, though larger gateway signs intended for major entrance spots across town would have a higher cost, Becher said. With an ordinary stop sign costing around $1,000, Public Services Director Andrew Beamer said in response to a question from councilmember Kyle Gamroth that he was not surprised that the larger, multi-colored wayfinding signs would cost more.

Gamroth said that he would like to see the signage added at some point, but asked whether there were any analytics available to quantify the benefits they may provide. Precisely quantifying wayfinding signage’s impact in terms of increasing things like sales tax has been hard to pin down, according to Becher. However, she pointed to some of the benefits in a memo on the topic:

• Providing Community Branding that defines the area.

• Providing a Sense of Place, making the community welcoming and attractive.

• Enhancing Mobility and the Efficiency / Safety of Traffic. Fewer lost drivers and

• The ability to direct traffic to the most efficient routes. “A new community utility.”

• Increased Traffic to Attractions for both first time and repeat visitation. People find the
attractions they are seeking so they can enjoy the attraction and spend money.

• Reduced Visitor Frustration. Encourages longer visits and exploration of the community.

• Is expandable to new venues (i.e., transit stops).

Councilmember Amber Pollock asked for some insight into how it was determined where the signs should be placed across the community. Casper Area MPO GIS Technician Renee Hardy said this process was driven by RDG Planning & Design when it was putting together the wayfinding plan and that the process included looking at every possible destination people might want to check out in Casper — everything from more obvious places like the Casper Events Center (Ford Wyoming Center) to small parks that even locals might not know exist.

After gathering a list of all possible destinations, the process also involved looking at where signs are already in place. The public and stakeholder groups working with RDG Planning & Design also provided input with the consultant then working to narrow down the list to priority locations across the community, according to Hardy.

Pollock said that since a previous council adopted the wayfinding plan, she thought it would make sense to move forward with “biting this off chunk by chunk.”

Councilmember Steve Cathey, who was on the council when the wayfinding plan was adopted, said that the cost of adding all the signs at once indeed caused some sticker shock. “We all had a heart attack,” he said.

Adding signs here and there could stretch the spending of the money out over “maybe 100 projects,” an approach Cathey said makes more sense to him.