WARRENSBURG - In an apparent victory for local organizations and the Adirondack Park Agency, the state Department of Transportation has reached a compromise with the Federal Highway Administration that will allow the majority of yellow-on-brown signs to remain along the roadways in the park.
In recent months, the Highway Administration has been pushing the Adirondack Park and Catskill State Park to adopt the conventional white-on-brown signs like are standard in federal parks.
But thanks to a recently discovered Memorandum of Understanding between federal and state highway officials adopted in 1977, which states that the Adirondack signs are largely exempted from federal standards, the FHWA has no choice but to relent - at least in the Adirondacks.
According to state DOT Region 2 Director Michael Shamma, the federal compromise could actually increase the overall number of yellow-on brown signs in the region, but would require some signs, like those that identify public transportation facilities, would have to changed to the standard white-on-green format.
"The yellow-on-brown obviously, we are doing it by a special agreement with the feds," Shamma said. "They would love to see both the Catskills and the Adirondacks go with the white-on-brown. We have an agreement with the Adirondacks, but never really had one for the Catskills."
Shamma said that without an MOU, like that in the Adirondacks, the Catskills are being forced to change their signs to conform to the federal format.
But placards designating the Catskill State Park and a logo will be placed at the top of the signs at federal expense.
"Maybe we can embark on an effort to brand the two parks differently," Shamma said. "They came up with these examples of placards."
Shamma said that FHWA officials are very uneasy with the use of yellow-on-brown signs, especially local road signs and any signs that provide drivers with directions.
Under the current proposal, highway mile markers, which appear every one-tenth of a mile along state roadways, would change from the standard green-on-white to yellow-on brown.
He notes that the FHWA hopes that the APA fell in love with the Catskill proposal.
Some commissioners found the logo sporting placard concept interesting, but as a whole the board remained steadfast in its resolve to maintain the current signage.
And for APA Chairman Curt Stiles, it's all about the brand.
"I think what's really important to the Adirondack Park is the safety of the people and the branding that the park benefits from with the yellow signs. It's part of the experience, it's part of what draws people here and makes it feel like the Adirondacks," Stiles said. "I understand the need to change that due to safety reasons, but the basic principles should remain."
Stiles said that in his personal opinion, he finds the federal compromise reasonable.
Shamma said that he would like to finalize the agreement with FHWA by early spring and that the installation of some of the additional yellow-on-brown could take place this coming summer.
He notes that just in Region 2, DOT has about $200,000 allotted specifically for sign replacements.