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Caltrans' gas tax freeway signs raise concerns with Feds

Posted: 3:04 PM, Sep 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-27 01:11:11Z

(KGTV) - The Federal Highway Administration has raised safety concerns with the signs Caltrans placed along freeways to alert drivers to projects funded by the recent gas tax increase.

The signs appear along major freeways in San Diego, including several down I-5.

They read "Your Tax Dollars at Work" and have a large SB-1 logo in the middle. Senate Bill 1 is the legislation approved last year that raised the per-gallon gas tax by 12 cents, with future increases planned. California voters will have a chance to repeal it on the November ballot. 

RELATED: Group calls Caltrans freeway signs political ads

But the Federal Highway Administration says the signs are out of compliance.

"You want the signs to be simple and clear and concise and they’re meant for drivers to know where they’re going and get where they’re going," said a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration. "We’re working together to get these signs into compliance."

The administration says the signs don't follow its Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices because they include a website address for rebuildingca.ca.gov . It's a site where people can look up what projects are funded by the gas tax increase. Under most cases, web addresses are only allowed on signs in carpool situations, and for slower traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians. 

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The federal administration has also raised issues with sign's colors. 

Caltrans says it has placed these work-zone alert signs near projects sites for years to inform drivers of the work and how it is funded. 

Caltrans says the SB 1 sign's design is similar to previously approved signs from propositions 1B 2006 and the 2009 American Recovery Act, which included unique color, graphics, and URL. Still, the state-run agency will remove the URL from future signs, each of which costs $700. 

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"We have actively been working with the FHWA to resolve differences in the technical interpretation of highway funding sign requirements," a Caltrans spokesman said. 

The signs, which went up in June, became a political flashpoint when the group behind repealing the gas tax hike called them thinly veiled political ads .

Carl DeMaio, who is heading the campaign for what's now Proposition 6, said Wednesday the signs are not about transparency, but to win a political campaign.

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Information obtained via the Public Records Act show a Governor's office requirement to make the SB1 logo the only one on the sign, despite other agencies involved. The signs can include up to four logos.

"Since SB1 is the main funding mechanism for these projects, and we have been asked to report to the public how funds were being used, the SB 1 logo was featured prominently," the Caltrans spokesman said. 

The gas tax increase has already led to hundreds of millions of dollars of projects awarded to the San Diego region.