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State, federal officials to meet on ‘I Love NY’ tourism signs

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. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau will meet with New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll next month to discuss a plan for taking down the more than 500 “I Love NY” tourism signs erected throughout the state, a spokesman for the federal agency said Monday.

The spokesman, Neil Gaffney, said the officials will meet at the Federal Highway Administration’s Washington office. He said no specific date had been set. Earlier this month highway administration officials threatened to decrease the nearly $1 billion in federal funds the state receives annually for bridge and highway projects if the signs remained.

State officials maintain the signs are a valuable tool in promoting New York’s lucrative tourism industry by providing information about the state’s attractions.

But Gaffney said the signs do not conform to federal standards for such roadway signs and they are also unsafe because they contain so much information that they are distracting drivers.

“We have been clear with NYSDOT that its tourism-related signs are out of compliance with federal law and create a safety concern,” Gaffney said Monday. “The signs do not conform to the federal standards outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is designed to help drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists move safely with minimal distraction.”

Gaffney said the Federal Highway Administration first told the state of its concerns about the signs back in 2011 and has continued to do so since.

“We are working to bring the state into compliance,” Gaffney said. “If it becomes clear that is not going to happen, we will make a determination about the penalty. It could be a range of things from withholding federal approval for projects to withholding highway funding.”

There is no sign yet, however, that the state plans to take the signs down.

DOT spokesman Gary Holmes said, “These signs are a critical element in the strategic promotion of the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry, and as we have said repeatedly, we believe them to be in full compliance with federal law. We will continue to engage with FHWA [the Federal Highway Administration] and look forward to meeting with them to ensure all their additional questions are answered.”

Holmes said the total cost of the signs was $1.76 million and that usually they are arranged in an array of five, with one larger sign and four smaller “follow signs.”

Since the signs started being put up in June some have been taken down by the state in such communities as Montauk, Port Jefferson and Orient following demands from local officials who said the signs were “ugly.”


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