AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law a bill that relocates or removes dozens of signs advertising schools, beaches, ski slopes and other attractions from Maine’s two interstate highways.
LePage signed LD 1831 on Wednesday. The measure aims to protect an estimated $170 million in federal highway funds by bringing the state in line with federal regulations on signs placed along the Maine Turnpike, Interstate 95 and Interstate 295.
The law, which will be put in place over a five-year period, results in about 90 signs being removed, relocated closer to the exits leading to the location advertised or replaced with smaller signs that fall within the bounds allowed by federal rules.
Signs that will be removed as a result of the bill include signs on the Maine Turnpike pointing to the Lewiston Sports Complex, Shaker Village and Hebron Academy.
Signs directing motorists to “Miles of Scenic Beaches,” the Saco Hotel and Conference Center also would be removed. Civic centers and auditoriums such as the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, the Augusta Civic Center and the Androscoggin Bank Colisee would not be eligible for a state-sponsored guide sign but instead would have to purchase a logo sign for the facility.
The new logo signs would be 3 feet by 4 feet and would cost $1,500 a year. Those eligible to buy logo signs would also receive exit ramp signs that are 18 inches by 24 inches.
Backers of the new law, which was the result of a nearly year-long effort of the Maine Turnpike Authority and the state’s Department of Transportation, say that it would not only protect valuable federal highway funds for Maine, but it would take the sign-approval process out of the political realm by establishing a regulatory process by which new signs could be placed along the highways.
The law doesn’t prevent people or organizations from still coming to the Legislature to request a special law to put up a sign on an interstate highway, but it does give lawmakers a policy directive that allows them to more easily reject the requests.
Previously, the Legislature has decided, on a case-by-case basis, every time a business or group wanted to put a sign on the interstate highway.
The law also allows for an appeal process that would be administered by the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation if a sign application is rejected.
The law goes into effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns.