• Feds Saying No to NY and AZ on Highway Signs


    Feds Take Action To . . .

    Penalize NY State for Signs on Right of Way;

    Block Privatized Rest Areas in Arizona

    Federal transportation authorities are withholding $14 million in highway funds to New York State as punishment for installing signs on the public right of way that do not comply with federal rules.

    The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) notified New York’s Department of Transportation of the penalty on February 1.   Funds could be restored if the State complies by September 30.

    Under the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), the state installed “I Love NY” promoting in-state destinations and products.  In a long-running spat, the feds repeatedly told the State that its signs violated federal rules governing blue-backed “Logo” signs that direct motorists to food, gas, lodging, and attractions.

    A typical “Logo” sign:


    In FHWA’s penalty letter, Acting Administrator Brandye Hendrickson cited safety concerns and said the penalty was effective immediately due to “more than 500 non-compliant signs” and repeated warnings:

    Cuomo said his goal is to boost New York State and its economy.  A State DOT spokesman said the signs are safe and provide useful information.

    Rest Areas

    In a separate action, FHWA turned down a request from Arizona Governor Douglas Ducey (R) to convert highway rest areas into full-service plazas offering fuel and food.

    In November of 2017, Ducey asked US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for permission to privatize rest areas under a special federal program for experimentation.

    FHWA said “no” in a letter to the governor dated January 3, 2018.  The feds said the experimental program does not allow activities which are banned by law.

    When the Interstate System was developed, existing full-service plazas were grandfathered.  Congress prohibited further commercialization of the right of way, as a means of protecting small towns and existing businesses located near highways.

    In 2012, the US Senate voted 86-12 to reject further commercialization of highway rest areas.  Opponents of privatization of rest areas include:

    • Truck stops
    • Convenience stores
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
    • National League of Cities, because of tax revenue generated by existing businesses located outside the right of way
    • Federation of the Blind, because blind entrepreneurs service vending machines at rest areas

    President Trump soon will unveil a plan to build and repair infrastructure.  The President will ask Congress to change the law, to allow expansion of full-service plazas as a way to generate revenue to help pay for roads and bridges.



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