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States Reject Stimulus Road Signs

Leonard Gilroy
October 14, 2009, 12:29pm

It's bad enough that current and future taxpayers have to pay for the stimulus. Luckily, drivers in some states won't have to be reminded of it every day. According to Michael Cooper at The New York Times:
The Great Depression had its red, white and blue "U.S.A. Work Program" signs and the ubiquitous "We Do Our Part" blue eagle emblems, which can still be seen in the credits of films of the era. This recession has green highway signs telling drivers when construction work was paid for by the stimulus program — but not in Georgia, which just became the latest of at least half a dozen states to forgo the signs as a waste of money.

The signs, which proclaim "Project Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" over the red, white, blue and green logo of the stimulus, cost an average of $1,200 apiece in Georgia, said David Spear, the press secretary for the Georgia Department of Transportation. With the state putting up two signs at each project and 119 construction contracts awarded through September, the cost of the signs was adding up. The sign issue became a lightning rod for critics of the stimulus, and many of them complained to the department about their cost.

"The more we reflected on it, the more we realized they were absolutely right: it's not the best use of the money," said Mr. Spear, who added that the decision would save tens of thousands of dollars that could be spent on more construction work. [...]

The sign question has taken on partisan overtones. Some Republicans say the signs are essentially publicly financed advertisements for one of the Obama administration’s signature programs. [...]

At the local level, though, the issue seems to be more about red ink than red states. Georgia, which made the decision this month to stop buying the signs, is led by Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican. Texas, another largely Republican state, also banned the signs. But Virginia, which decided from the beginning not to use any of its stimulus money on signs, is led by Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Florida, whose Republican governor, Charlie Crist, broke ranks with his party to support the stimulus, decided not to use the signs. And New York, a largely Democratic state, stopped requiring them this summer after it was embarrassed by reports that contractors were asking for more than $4,000 for the largest signs.
At a time when states like Florida, Georgia, Texas and Virginia face massive transportation funding shortfalls, the notion of spending $1,200-$4,000 a pop for unnecessary road signs—temporary political monuments, really—is simply unconscionable.

Hopefully we won't be asked to bail out the sign makers.


Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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