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State DOT: 'I Love NY' tourism signs come down before deadline

The controversial blue New York State tourism signs

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

New York has taken down hundreds of “I Love NY” tourism signs, the Department of Transportation said on Wednesday, meeting a deadline the state agreed upon with the federal government.

The battle over the large blue-and-white signs, which typically appear on major state roadways in groups of five, erupted after the Federal Highway Administration rejected the state’s request to install them. The FHA in February threatened to withhold an estimated $14 million from the roughly $1 billion the agency gives the state annually for highway and bridge improvements. The state did not lose the funding after agreeing in late September to remove the signs.

The agreement allows the first sign in the groupings to remain in place with modifications. The four follow-up signs in each group are being repositioned at welcome centers, rest areas and travel plazas.

The FHA and the state "will continue a shared goal of fueling tourism and encouraging motorists to patronize local businesses off of the interstate highway system," the DOT said Wednesday in a statement. 

 As part of its accord with the Federal Highway Administration, New York submitted its plan for a new tourism campaign; the FHA has said it is reviewing what it called the experimental, conceptual signs that are part of that program.

On Long Island, 144 "I Love NY" signs were erected on the Meadowbrook, Wantagh and Northern State parkways, the Long Island Expressway, at Jones Beach and at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

Some of the signs, posted on streets in Montauk, Port Jefferson and Orient, were later removed after complaints from residents and officials that they were ugly.

The Cuomo administration put the signs up in 2013 to boost tourism, saying they offered useful information and did not cause accidents.

The federal government, however, said the signs violated laws limiting road signs to navigational assistance and barring them from being used as ads.

With AP

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