Townships Ask for Federal Sign Mandate Relief
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors is urging the Federal Highway Administration to move forward with plans to change the costly federal regulation that requires municipalities to upgrade their street signs over the next few years.
Recently, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the administration was considering eliminating several onerous deadlines that would require townships and thousands of other local governments nationwide to have a sign management program in place by January 2012 and replace regulatory, warning, and ground-mounted guide signs by January 2015 and overhead guide signs and street name signs by January 2018.
Under the new scenario, townships would receive additional time – until January 2014 – to develop the sign assessment and management program. And while municipalities would still have to replace warning and other signs to comply with national standards for improving their visibility, local officials would be able to do so when needed and as their budgets allow.
"The FHWA’s changes are nearing the final stages, and getting this consideration is a great victory for townships and our association," PSATS Executive Director David M. Sanko said. "Townships have tens of thousands of signs, and this unfunded mandate would have proven to be an expensive and challenging proposition for many communities.
"After intensive lobbying by PSATS and the National Association of Towns and Townships, the FHWA has recognized the local impact, and we applaud its efforts to soften the financial blow on Pennsylvania’s townships."
PSATS was among the organizations that submitted comments on the new rules to the FHWA. The agency will review these and then decide whether to finalize the changes to the sign regulations.
Sanko said the proposed changes appear to mark 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 would increase the minimum dollar amount that requires townships to advertise and seek bids for purchases and contracts. State 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 state’s land mass.