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Long IslandTransportation

Feds still ‘concerned’ about plans to remove ‘I Love NY’ signs

The controversial blue New York State tourism signs

The controversial blue New York State tourism signs on the Meadowbrook Parkway on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Freeport. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Federal Highway Administration is pressing the state Department of Transportation for a plan to remove hundreds of illegal “I Love NY” tourism campaign signs that popped up throughout Long Island and elsewhere in the last year.

A proposal from the DOT was expected two months ago, according to Federal Highway administrator Peter Osborn, who said the agency is “concerned” about the delayed response.

DOT officials maintain the markers are vital to the state’s lucrative tourism campaign and are legal, but agency spokeswoman Tiffany Portzer said in an emailed statement Monday, “Our conversations with FHWA are ongoing.”

Federal Highway Administration officials say the blue and white markers promoting New York attractions are unsafe so they denied a DOT request to erect them, but the state agency did so anyway in time for last summer’s tourism season.

Since then 144 signs have sprung up on Long Island in such locations as the Long Island Expressway, the Meadowbrook and Northern State parkways, Jones Beach, and Long Island MacArthur Airport — to the dismay of some local officials and residents who say they are ugly, inappropriate and useless.

Some of the signs placed on streets in Montauk, Port Jefferson and Orient were later removed by the DOT but hundreds of others remain despite threatened cuts to federal funding for bridge and highway projects if the markers are not removed.

A total of 514 signs have been put up by the DOT and the state Thruway Authority at a cost of $8.1 million. Authorities from the federal agency say they contain too much information — making them a distraction to drivers — and add they are not in compliance with federal requirements that such signs provide navigational information for motorists are not ads.

In December meetings between the two agencies commenced to discuss the signs’ removal, but in a May 8 letter from Osborn to DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll, Osborn expressed continued concern about the signs staying in place.

Portzer on Monday declined to discuss DOT’s plans for the signs, including whether the state had responded to the letter or when a proposal might be presented to the Highway Administration.

Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox was not immediately available for comment Monday on whether an answer to the letter had been received from the state but in an emailed statement last week he said, “The Federal Highway Administration continues to work with NYSDOT to develop a plan to achieve compliance. NYSDOT is currently developing an “experimental proposal” for our consideration. The FHWA will review the proposal upon receipt and work with NYSDOT on next steps.”

In the May 8 letter, Osborn indicates that not enough progress has been made.

“The FHWA remains concerned with the numerous signs that were erected in July 2016 as part of a State initiative to promote tourism,” Osborn said in the letter. “These signs include a main panel with the “I Love NY,” Taste NY, Parks and Path through History logos, with subsequent individual signs and sign supports … As discussed previously these signs are not in compliance with the National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).”

Osborn noted that the “working group” the highway administration and DOT formed “to develop a plan to bring NYSDOT into compliance” has been “actively meeting and made good progress,” with the outcome of its last meeting in February being that DOT would develop an the experimental proposal for the Highway Administration to consider.

“We anticipated receiving the proposal early April 2017,” Osborn said.

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