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Federal road sign mandate could prove costly to counties
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An unfunded federal mandate demanding that counties and states replace existing road signs with signs that are supposedly easier to see at night could potentially cost DeKalb County tens of thousands of dollars.The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated federal rules governing minimum nighttime visibility standards for road signs.State and local governments must present plans for overhauling their old signs by January 22, 2012.Traffic safety signs, such as stop and yield signs, must be replaced by 2015, and all signs must be replaced by 2018.According to estimates from the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, meeting the current compliance deadlines will cost local governments at least $50 million in Tennessee alone.Locally the signs now cost $13.50 each. The new high visibility signs will reportedly cost the county $32.95 apiece, more than doubling the already significant sign budget.There are reportedly more than three-thousand county road signs which will have to be replaced under the new federal requirements, without any financial assistance from the federal government.U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander have introduced legislation to stop what they refer to as an overreach by the federal government.“Here they go again,” said Alexander, “turning a big Washington idea about little road signs into another unfunded mandate, making state and local governments foot the bill,""Obviously, everyone wants our roads to be as safe as possible,” said Corker, “but the arbitrary deadlines assigned by Washington amount to an unfunded mandate on local governments at a time when they can least afford it.“Instead of asking local governments to shell out $50 million,” Corker continued, “it seems like a much more reasonable approach to replace road signs when they need to be replaced instead of an arbitrary deadline assigned by some Washington bureaucrat.""Here they go again, turning a big Washington idea about little road signs into another unfunded mandate, making state and local governments foot the bill," Alexander said.Several Tennessee localities submitted public comments detailing the excessive compliance costs imposed by the proposed road sign rules.On May 30, Governor Haslam signed a resolution, HJR 304, passed by the Tennessee General Assembly calling for Congress to fully fund the FHWA's mandate.In a statement, the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association said, "It is financially impossible for Tennessee county governments to comply with this unfunded FHWA mandate. Tennessee county governments' inability to comply with the FHWA sign mandates indirectly exposes all units of local governments to potential litigation.