AUGUSTA — 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 Wednesday. The measure aims to protect about $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 I-295.
The law, which will be put in place over a span of five years, results in about 90 signs being removed, relocated closer to the exits leading to locations advertised or replaced with smaller signs that fall within the bounds of federal rules.
Several signs for local areas slated to be removed 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” and 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 will not be eligible for state-sponsored guide signs but can buy logo signs.
The 3- by 4-foot logo signs would cost $1,500 per year. Those eligible to buy logo signs would also receive 18- by 24-inch exit ramp signs.
The law was the result of a nearly yearlong effort of the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Maine Department of Transportation. Backers said it would protect valuable federal highway funds for Maine and would take the sign-approval process out of the political realm by establishing a standard regulatory process by which new signs could be placed along the highways.
The law doesn't prevent people or organizations from coming to the Legislature to request a special law to put up a sign on an interstate, but it does give lawmakers a policy directive that allows them to more easily reject the requests.
The Legislature previously has decided on a case-by-case basis each time a business or other group wanted to put a sign on an interstate.
The law also allows an appeal process that would be administered by the Turnpike Authority and MDOT if a sign application were rejected.
The law goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session adjourns.