Cuomo's feud with feds over 'I Love NY' signs proves costly

Federal officials are not showing the love for signs put up along New York's busiest highways and it could cost the state millions of dollars in fines. The feds ordered them taken down years ago, saying they were distracting for drivers.

"This is just a foolish feud of years between the governor and federal highway bureaucrats," said John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany, a watchdog-group

For the last five years, Kaehny has watched Gov. Andrew Cuomo defy the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices by erecting more than 500 "I Love New York" highway signs across the state after the federal government told him not to.

"The governor is really, really determined to get these signs up no matter what anyone says and apparently regardless of the cost," Kaehny said.

State taxpayers already paid $8 million in overtime fees and emergency contracts to install the signs before a 4th of July weekend, according to the USA Today Network. The signing of those emergency contracts tells Kaehny that the governor himself hurried the completion of the project.

The Federal Highway Administration on Thursday sent the state's Department of Transportation a letter letting it know the federal government planned to withhold $14 million of funding and grants from New York as punishment for erecting the signs that the feds told it not to.

"I like the signs. I think they look cool," Kaehny said.

But not $22 million worth of cool and ongoing discord with now two generations of federal government bureaucrats, Kaehny said.

In its letter, the highway administration said it remained open to discussing letting some signs remain as an experiment but otherwise required the state to comply with its standards for highway signs by September 30.

In a statement, a New York State Department of Transportation spokesman wrote: "We believe the signs are safe and provide useful information to drivers, and will continue to work with the FHWA on a mutually beneficial resolution to this matter."

Presumably the federal government could and would reinstate the $14 million it has withheld as punishment from the state when or if the two sides reach a compromise.