Another Unfunded Mandate Shot Down
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors is among those praising the Federal Highway Administration after it announced today that it plans to eliminate 46 traffic sign regulations, a move that will provide communities with more flexibility by allowing them to replace signs when they are worn out rather than by a specific date.
"Some of these burdensome deadlines would have cost communities millions of dollars at a time when they can’t afford that," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "We spoke to state and local officials across the country, and we heard them loud and clear."
PSATS and its sister organization in Washington, D.C., the National Association of Towns and Townships, were among those chiming in on the issue. In fact, the groups have been lobbying the federal government for several months to have the sign mandate lifted. As a result, the FHWA’s decision eliminates a number of deadlines in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices that would have required larger lettering for signs and for certain signs to be replaced to meet minimum retroreflectivity standards. The final rule also eliminates deadlines for increasing the size of various traffic signs, such as "Pass With Care" and "Low Clearance." Now, townships will be able to replace and upgrade these signs when they reach the end of their useful life.
"Today’s announcement represents a huge victory for townships and their taxpayers: One more burdensome and costly unfunded mandate has been shot down," PSATS Executive Director David M. Sanko said. "It’s also a victory for common sense and for our Association’s ‘Take Aim at Unfunded Mandates’ effort.
"Townships have tens of thousands of signs, and had this mandate stood, it would have proven to be an expensive and challenging proposition for many communities," he added. "I’m pleased to see that after an intensive grassroots outreach by PSATS and NATaT, the federal government has recognized the local impact, and we applaud its efforts to soften the financial blow on Pennsylvania’s townships."
Sanko said the sign mandate’s repeal marks a turning point in the thinking of state and federal officials, which of late have been backing off on a series of unfunded mandates imposed on municipalities. Recently, for instance, state lawmakers passed legislation that increases the bidding threshold for townships when they purchase goods and services. Lawmakers are also considering a number of changes to the Prevailing Wage Law, including one that would exempt municipalities from the law’s costly requirements.
"The status quo is being questioned," Sanko said, "and that’s a good thing because the more money that townships can save, the more they can invest in their communities to improve the quality of life and avoid future tax increases."
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,455 townships of the second class and for the past 90 years has been committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class represent more residents — 5.5 million Pennsylvanians — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth and cover 95 percent of the commonwealth’s land mass.