Batch of “I Love NY” signs scrapped over color issues

February 13, 2018 05:10 PM

ROCHESTER—News10NBC has learned that a batch of the “I Love NY” tourism signs that went up along the NYS Thruway were actually removed and re-printed because they were in a shade of blue that made them too difficult to read.  Keep in mind, the color issue happened while the State was already ignoring warnings from the Federal Government that the signs, regardless of color, were illegal because they were too distracting.  

NYS taxpayers spent nearly $8.2 million on the roughly 500 signs that currently line highways across the State.  Governor Andrew Cuomo says the signs have increased tourism but the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said from the start, they do not conform to federal standards and are too distracting.  Just last week, the federal government pulled $14m in highway funding from New York State because of the issue.  The money will be restored if the signs come down by the end of summer.  News10NBC has now learned one of the early batches put up in 2016 along the Thruway was even more distracting than what you see today.    

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As the Thruway started installing the “mother-boards” which are the large signs that are then typically followed by four smaller signs, it noticed an issue.  In the daylight, you could barely read them, the blue background was too light.  15 signs were printed at the time, 4 had been installed when the Thruway realized they wouldn’t work and they had to be scrapped.  It’s likely no one would have publically known about the color issue had it not been for some attentive road workers who noticed a pile of what looked like brand new signs and called News10NBC to inquire about why they were never put up.  

NYS Thruway Authority Spokeswoman Jennifer Givner confirmed that the signs were too difficult to read and came down almost immediately. The Thruway Authority makes its own signs but Givner say it was following the specifications given.  When asked who provided those specifications, Givner said she did not know.  A spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation says to the best of his knowledge, DOT never had to alter or replace signs due to a coloring issue.  So, it appears if there is a silver lining, it’s that the Thruway Authority caught the issue before DOT paid independent contractors to make and install hundreds of other “I Love NY” signs on New York State highways.   

The retail printing costs of each mother-board is roughly $5,800 which means $87,000 was spent on the Thruway signs that either never went up or had to come down.  “I never like to see $1 of government waste if we can avoid it…that could have been a small road project, milling, sidewalks... things that we need,” says Senator Joe Robach, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.  

Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia has been outspoken about the signs since the battle with the feds began, “any time you're told that something is illegal and you're spending taxpayer dollars, it's not okay to spend more.  Whether it's $87,000 to re-do those or the $8.2 million to put them up in the first place…it’s all real money and it’s taxpayer money and it’s not okay,” he tells News10NBC. 

All of the “I Love NY” signs will come down by the end of summer. The state says it plans on using pieces of them in other promotional campaigns.  


Jennifer Lewke

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