ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday suggested changes may be in store for the state's I Love NY highway signs, which have been at the center of a years-long dispute with the federal government.
In Rochester, Cuomo was asked by reporters about the future of the 514 blue signs, which dot the state's highways and tout its various tourism programs.
The Democratic governor hinted that the current signs may be on their way out or changed as part of a new advertising campaign. He didn't mention any specifics, however, and denied that they're currently coming down.
"They are up, they have been up for years," Cuomo said. "We have no resolution with the federal government, but they have been up for so long that it's almost time to come up with a new campaign."
Cuomo's administration first began installing the controversial signs at entryways to the state in 2014, and a change by the Cuomo administration could end the dispute between governments.
The signage was dramatically expanded just before July 4 last year, with groups of five signs -- a "motherboard" followed by signs touting individual tourism programs -- placed along roadways all over the state.
All told, the state Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority spent $8.1 million to put the signs up, including overtime payments to ensure they were up before the holiday.
But the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, maintains the signage violates federal and state law, which require states that receive federal highway funding to comply with a stringent set of rules governing what can and can't go on traffic-control devices.
The state first asked the federal administration to allow I Love NY signs in 2013, but was rejected. It didn't matter: The state ignored the federal order and began putting signs up the next year.
The dispute could cost the state money; the FHWA can withhold millions of dollars in federal funding for highways that don't comply with signage rules.
Last week, a spokesman for the FHWA said the state had made promises to remove the signs. He warned the federal administration could take action if they don't come down.
A state Department of Transportation spokesman countered, saying the state had "not heard anything new from FHWA on this issue."
On Friday, Cuomo said the signs have been "highly, highly effective" in advertising tourism.
"They (the signs) were up last time I checked, and they've been up for a few years now, so it's almost time to change them, I think," Cuomo said.
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