'I Love NY' signs cost more than state first claimed

ALBANY - The state Department of Transportation says it paid $5.4 million to print and install 374 "I Love NY" highway signs across New York, well more than the agency originally claimed the signs cost.

Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll on Wednesday said his agency paid $3.1 million for materials and $2.3 million to install the large, blue signs, which now dot roadways across the state despite the federal government deeming them illegal.

That's significantly more than the DOT said in November, when it estimated the state spent $1.76 million on materials.

The Nov. 1 estimate included costs from both the DOT and the state Thruway Authority, which installed another 140 signs that were not included in Driscoll's numbers Wednesday.

"The difference is that $1.7 (million) number was a point in time," Driscoll told reporters after testifying at a state budget hearing. "Now that we have all the costs in, we now know that (the materials) cost ($3.1 million)."

The signs, which have been touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are generally grouped in five and placed in rapid succession along the road's right-of-way. They promote various state tourism programs, with all promoting the state's I Love NY app.

They have been at the center of a behind-the-scenes dispute with the Federal Highway Administration for more than three years, with the administration saying they are distracting to drivers and violate both state and federal law, which have strict rules on what can and cannot go on highway signs.

The state began installing them in 2014 and quickly expanded them last year -- despite a 2013 federal order rejecting the state's request to put them up.

The DOT has previously declined to detail the total costs of the signs, sticking to its $1.76 million estimate -- which did not include installation costs -- until Wednesday.

Contracting documents obtained by the USA TODAY Network's Albany Bureau last month showed the DOT paid a contractor more than $300,000 to print and install 21 I Love NY signs in the Rochester region.

Driscoll's figures are in line with that number, working out to an average of $14,438 in material and installation costs per sign.

The total cost of the Thruway Authority's signs, which are installed across the 570-mile superhighway system, has not yet been released.

Bill Finch, the Thruway's acting executive director, is slated to testify at the state budget hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Gannett


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