Media Center

U.S. Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Representatives Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. 4th, and Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.3rd, welcomed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposal today eliminating numerous compliance deadlines for replacing old road signs that would have imposed an unfunded mandate on states, costing Tennessee an estimated $50 million.  Under the new proposal, communities would only be required to comply with new sign visibility standards when replacing old signs, rather than by arbitrary 2015 and 2018 deadlines.  In June, Corker and Alexander introduced legislation (S.1216) to stop this unfunded mandate, giving state and local governments the flexibility to replace signs in accordance with the new standards at the end of their normal life cycle.  DesJarlais and Fleischmann introduced companion legislation (H.R.2257) in the House of Representatives.

“As I’ve traveled throughout Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District, one of the biggest concerns voiced by my constituents is that overregulation by the federal government is taking away from already limited resources. Forcing cash-strapped local governments to arbitrarily replace functioning street signs is a perfect example of how federal regulations often lead to unnecessary expenses. I’m proud to have worked with Senators Alexander and Corker and Representative Fleischmann in addressing this issue and am glad that our efforts helped in leading to the abolishment of this unfunded mandate. It is my hope that today’s proposal is a sign that this administration is finally willing to join us in getting serious about addressing burdensome federal regulations and their unintended consequences,” Rep. DesJarlais said.

“I am pleased that the Obama Administration has heard the calls from local and state governments and Congress, and has waived these burdensome deadlines. Finally the Administration has acknowledged in at least one area that federal rules and regulations can have a very costly impact on local governments. I’m also pleased that the first bill that I introduced played a role in bringing attention to this particular overreach by the federal government. Now, I hope that the Administration will look just as critically at the thousands of other rules and regulations that cost taxpayers dearly and stifles private sector growth,” Rep. Fleischmann said.

“Everyone wants our roads to be as safe as possible, but these arbitrary deadlines assigned by Washington amounted to an unfunded mandate on local governments at a time when they can least afford it.  The Department of Transportation’s decision to address our concerns and eliminate these costly deadlines is a common sense one that will help local governments in Tennessee and around the country who are making tough decisions to balance their budgets.  Rather than force Tennessee communities to shell out $50 million they don’t have, it’s much more reasonable to let them replace road signs only when they need to be replaced.  I thank Senator Alexander, Congressmen Fleischmann and DesJarlais, Governor Haslam, and all the state and local officials who supported this successful effort,” Sen. Corker said.

“I'm glad the administration has seen the light and agrees with us. Tennessee’s state and local governments shouldn't have to pay for thisburdensome, $50 million unfunded mandate,” Sen. Alexander said.

DOT’s new proposal amends the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) updated federal rules governing minimum nighttime visibility standards (known as “retroreflectivity”) for road signs.  Under the existing rules, state and local governments are required to present plans for overhauling their old signs by January 22, 2012. Traffic safety signs, such as stop and yield signs, must be replaced by 2015, and all signs must be replaced by 2018. According to estimates from the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, meeting the current compliance deadlines would cost local governments at least $50 million in Tennessee alone.

Several Tennessee localities submitted public comments detailing the excessive compliance costs imposed by the proposed road sign rules.

On May 30, Governor Haslam signed a resolution, HJR 304, passed by the Tennessee General Assembly calling for Congress to fully fund the FHWA’s mandate.

The Tennessee County Highway Officials Association has said, “It is financially impossible for Tennessee county governments to comply with this unfunded FHWA mandate. Tennessee county governments’ inability to comply with the FHWA sign mandates indirectly exposes all units of local governments to potential litigation. One of the biggest concerns for county governments regarding program mandates is the threat of lawsuits for non-compliance.”

For a complete list of the compliance dates eliminated by the DOT proposal, visit: