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Feds soften harsh sign rule; Congress isn’t providing funding

September 6, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s a sign of the times. The Federal Highway Administration is caving in to a tsunami of complaints about its stringent sign law that had the potential to pressure local budgets to the breaking point.

The earlier measure directed all municipalities across the country to replace road signs and stop signs so that they are more reflective, especially at night. Although only a quarter of travel occurs at night, highway officials noted that half of all traffic fatalities occur then.

“How on earth are we going to pay for this?” said Damascus supervisor chairman of Jeff Dexter when the directive was first introduced. “The timing couldn’t be worse.” Damascus officials estimated that it would cost about $150,000 for new street signs and about $45,000 for stop signs, not including labor.

In recognition of the countless municipalities across the country experiencing serious short-falls in the collection of taxes and the rise in costs of health care coverage and pensions, the Obama administration is planning to yield or slow down and delay original deadlines that were imposed.

This week, the administration issued a proposal that would eliminate dozens of deadlines for replacing traffic and road signs, saying that communities should not be forced to install new signs until the old ones wear out.

Still, the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to retain a dozen deadlines for sign upgrades that it says are critical to public safety, like “one-way” signs at intersections with divided highways or one-way streets, and requiring “Stop” or “Yield” signs to be added at all railroad crossings where there are no automatic gates or flashing lights.

Organizations who favor safety and increased transportation funding are disappointed.

“We don’t want to fault municipal and state officials for pushing against this legislation because it’s Congress who is not funding a transportation bill for the country that would fund our aging infrastructure as President Obama has wished and provide funds for this particular legislation,” said Brad Sant, spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

If the transportation bill was passed by Congress, there would be funding for a sign law, Sant said.

“I haven’t verified the change yet but it would certainly be good news if it’s true,” Dexter said.