ALBANY — The Cuomo administration yielded to the federal government Friday and announced plans to replace the controversial “I Love NY” road signs that threatened to cost taxpayers a $ 14 million penalty.
Administration officials said the sign campaign had run “its useful course” and will be replaced by new tourism initiative in time for the summer season.
“Existing materials will be reused but, as the signs will be redesigned for the new campaign, we will consult with (federal highway officials) during this process,” Acting Transportation Commissioner Paul Karas and Thruway Authority Director Matthew Driscoll said in a joint statement.
The statement came a day after the Federal Highway Administration notified the Cuomo administration that it was withholding $ 14 million in funding because of the more than 500 signs, which federal officials claimed were an unnecessary distraction to drivers and created safety hazards.
Federal officials gave the state until Sept. 30 to remove the signs or forfeit the money.
Karas and Driscoll said the signs would be replaced by the federal deadline.
The statement marked a stark turnabout for the Cuomo administration, which had steadfastly refused to remove the signs and rejected repeated federal complaints that they provided little useful information to motorists and used fonts and graphics that go beyond what is allowed under federal and state law.
Cuomo announced plans to install the signs along the Thruway and other roadways in January of 2014 — months after the federal government had already rejected a request to do so.
In their statement, Karas and Driscoll said the signs had boosted the state’s tourism industry.
“Since the Governor initiated this branding effort, the number of tourists to New York State has increased by 18 percent and the direct economic impact of tourism on the State has skyrocketed by more than 20%,” they wrote.