• Tourism signs in New York State: What Did The Feds Agree To?

    The feds and New York State announced resolution on September 28 to a long-running dispute over tourism-promotion signs on the right of way deemed illegal by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

    Neither side offered much detail about the agreement, other than FHWA would rescind its $14 million penalty against the state.

    Government’s treatment of signs on the right of way is important, so Insider dug for details.  This article sheds light on the New York agreement, and provides links to government documents.  In sum:

    • FHWA approved an “experiment” to test a new version of blue-backed logo signs promoting in-state destinations
    • This experiment will last two years, starting October 1, 2018
    • The state committed to extensive evaluation, including safety analysis and visitation rates


    The feds penalized New York State because its tourism-promotion signs, favored by Governor Andrew Cuomo, deviated from the federal Manual that standardizes signage on the right of way.  Cuomo argued that he is promoting his state.  The signs became a political issue due to installation costs and the $14 million federal penalty.

    The Agreement

    New York State explained its proposal in a 20-page document dated September 18.  FHWA gave conditional approval on September 28, via a letter  signed by Mark R. Kehrli, director of transportation operations at FHWA headquarters.

    The agreement relaxes the federal sign Manual in order to experiment with 10-by15 foot signs displaying New York State “pictographs” promoting attractions, history, food, and recreation.

    The state’s proposal stipulates that these experimental signs are not advertising, which is not allowed by the federal sign Manual (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).  The blue-backed panels, the state says, will complement existing  approved “attraction” signs:



    Insider’s take:  The camel is attempting to get its nose under the tent.  The signs are not paid advertising for now, but Insider expects that to change if the program grows.    IFHWA expects  a detailed work plan by November 2.  Insider will continue to provide updates on this “experiment.”

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