Feds Say New York’s “I Love NY” Highway Signs Violate The Law

Image courtesy of News10.com

Whether or not you actually feel affection toward New York, drivers cruising the state’s highways and byways are no doubt familiar with the proliferation of blue “I Love NY” signs that dot the roadside promoting tourism. But there’s one party that definitely doesn’t love the state for using those signs — the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Transportation warned the state that signs aren’t compliant with federal standards as cited in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices [PDF], which says that tourist information signs either constructed within rest areas on freeways and expressways or located within close proximity to these facilities cannot contain “an excessive number of supplemental panels… so as not to overload the road user.”

New York’s signs are too big and filled with too much information, the federal DOT warned the state — before they started going up more than five years ago — and thus, could be dangerously distracting to drivers, The New York Times notes.

But the state went ahead and put up 514 of the signs anyway, and officials are not shy about how much they love them.

“The goal is to get people who are on the roads off the roads and into communities and fostering and promoting the economy of the State of New York,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his State of the State address in 2014, three years after federal officials first called attention to the issue.

New York is now facing fines and the potential withholding of federal financing for state highways, with state and federal transportation departments slated to meet next month to discuss things. That being said, the state doesn’t seem ready to give up its beloved signs: officials see the signs as an important way to promote tourism, and industry that generated $102 billion for New York in 2015.

“This issue has been discussed for years and involve issues like the interpretation of rules,” a spokesman for the state Transportation Department told the NYT, including things like which direction the signs can face, and whether or not they can include email addresses and the like. “This isn’t high crime, but minor disagreements that we look forward to meeting with the feds in order to resolve. The ‘I Love N.Y.’ tourism program is highly successful and a big economic driver.”

Federal officials say they aren’t messing around, however.

“We have been clear with the New York State Department of Transportation that its tourism-related signs are out of compliance” and need to be removed, a spokesman for the federal transportation department told the Times. “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. We hope it does not come to that.”

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