New York docked $ 14 million for I Love NY road signs

A total of 514 brands, including these "motherboard" signs - have been popping up in recent months across the state.  This sign is on I-90 near Schenectady.

ALBANY – The federal government allocated $ 14 million in New York on Thursday to install more than 500 I Love NY signs that violate road rules and state law.

The penalty imposed by the Federal Highway Administration is its strongest move to date in an attempt to force the removal of the blue and white road signs, which the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo spent $ 8.1 million to install. years despite being ordered not to do so in 2013.

Update February 2: I Love NY sign coming by summer to avoid a fine of $ 14 million

Acting FHWA administrator Brandye Hendrickson described the sanction in a letter Thursday to transportation officials in the Cuomo administration, giving them until September 30 to either remove the signs or come to a compromise.

The $ 14 million will be returned if the state meets the deadline, Hendrickson wrote.

“Due to the installation of over 500 non-compliant signs and repeated notifications to remove these installations, the FHWA will assess the initial penalties for non-compliance with immediate effect,” wrote Hendrickson, who was appointed by the President Donald Trump.

Following:New York road signs are illegal, says federal government

Following:Emergency contracts, overtime feeds “I Love NY” signs

Following:Some “I Love NY” road signs made in Arkansas

Long-standing conflict

The letter was the latest twist in a bitter, multi-year dispute between the federal government and the state Department of Transportation over the signs, which tout the app, website and various programs targeting tourism in the State.

Signs are located in all corners of the state along roads and highways. They are usually grouped into five, with a large “motherboard” followed by four similar signs in quick succession.

Cuomo’s administration started installing the panels in 2014, six months after the FHWA rejected a request from the state Department of Transportation to experiment with I Love NY signs. The state quickly expanded signage in 2016.

A review of the USA TODAY network showed the state paid contractors overtime, printed some of the signs out of state and used emergency contracts to ensure they were in place before the July 4, 2016 vacation, driving the total cost to over $ 15,000 per panel.

The FHWA maintains that the signs are potentially dangerous and do not convey any useful information to a driver while driving. The state maintains that they are safe and informative.

The signs contain a web address as well as various fonts and images which are all prohibited by strict federal rules which govern what can and cannot be placed along the roads. State law, for its part, relies heavily on federal rules.

the state plan

Hendrickson’s letter was sent Thursday to Paul Karas, acting state DOT commissioner, and Matthew Driscoll, acting executive director of the Thruway Authority.

In a statement, DOT spokesman Joseph Morrissey said the agency would continue to work with the federal government to find a solution.

“We believe the signs are safe and provide useful information to drivers, and we will continue to work with the FHWA on a mutually beneficial resolution of this issue,” he said.

Doug Hecox, spokesperson for the FHWA, said the federal administration intends to continue working with the state to “resolve this issue.”

“If the state complies with federal requirements, the FHWA will restore funding by September 30, 2018,” Hecox said in a statement.

Hendrickson’s letter revealed that the state submitted a proposal to the FHWA on Monday asking for permission to “experiment” with the signs in one form or another.

States may sometimes be given permission from the federal government to attempt signage that may circumvent the rules of the road.

The FHWA rejected the state’s proposal, however, because it did not include the information needed to be approved, Hendrickson wrote.

The federal government and state DOT declined to release the proposal on Thursday.

But documents obtained by the Albany office of the USA TODAY Network show that the state has proposed to remove about 400 of the current 514 signs and replace them with about 80 new but similar signs at the borders of different regions of the state.

Federal rejection

In his letter, Hendrickson said the plan could not be approved “as is”.

“However, if you continue to develop the details of an experimentation request, we are ready to work with your staff,” she wrote.

Speaking to reporters on January 25, We asked Karas whether the state would submit plans to the FHWA in the coming weeks.

“No,” Karas said.

The state’s proposal was submitted four days later.

Morrissey declined to comment when asked to explain Karas’ remark.

The estimated penalty of $ 14 million represents 1% of the state’s share of 2018 funding under the National Highway Performance and Surface Transportation Block Grant programs, according to Hendrickson.

In total, the state receives about $ 1.4 billion annually through the two programs, which help fund road and highway projects across the state.

Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of the State Associated General Contractors, said the situation was “troubling”.

Elmendorf said the signs are “not particularly useful” and “not legal”.

“The FHWA’s position has been clear for some time now, and now we have an interruption in federal funds that are already not sufficient to meet the needs of the DOT system,” he said.

“I hope they will resolve this issue quickly so that they can recover these funds.”

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Jon Campbell is USA TODAY Network’s Albany office correspondent.

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