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Maryland Highway Workers Removing Thousands of Road Signs Ahead of Primary

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    NEWSLETTERS

    State and local highway crews have been forced to pull thousands of road signs from local roadways. (Published Saturday, Jun 21, 2014)

    Days before Maryland’s primary election, a review by the News4 I-Team reveals state and local highway crews have been forced to pull thousands of road signs from local roadways.

    The signs, some as tall as six feet, had been placed along bustling state roadways in violation of Maryland law. State officials and drivers said the campaign signs are a distraction along crowded roadways and, in some cases, significantly reduce visibility for commuters.

    The unlawfully placed road signs have forced local government agencies to redirect work crews, which might otherwise be completing road projects and repairs, into sign cleanup duty. What’s more, interviews conducted by the News4 I-Team found state and county officials are unable to issue fines or penalties against the campaigns responsible for the sign postings.

    The I-Team’s review of Maryland State Highway Administration records found government work crews had removed more than 1,600 unlawfully placed road signs in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties over a recent four-month span. Crews pulled 450 more from state roads in Frederick, Howard and Carroll counties. Those signs include a large number of campaign advertisements, according to a state spokesman.

    Once removed by crews, the campaign signs are deposited in storage areas at state garages. News4 I-Team cameras captured images of hundreds of signs piled near a salt dome at the state garage in Upper Marlboro. Advertisements for local and state candidates, including candidates from both parties, were among those retrieved.

    Montgomery County officials said they too are monitoring distracting signage.

    “(The signs) are a distraction issue,” Department of Permitting Services director Diane Schwartz Jones said. “We want people focusing on what’s in front of them and beside them when they’re driving.”

    Schwartz Jones said the county issues orders to property owners to move oversized campaign signs from areas close to roadways.

    Maryland state law allows its highway department to issue financial penalties against businesses or people who unlawfully post signs on state roadway rights-of-way or easements. But a state spokesman said the department is not empowered to issue fines against political advertisers or campaigns, only commercial or non-political advertisers.

    Montgomery County said it has chosen to cease issuing legal challenges against road sign posters. Schwarz Jones said a 2012 court challenge against a road sign required a large amount of manpower and time, but yielded only a $5 fine against the poster.

    Advocates for roadway safety have complained about the size and quantity of road signs lining Maryland streets, on the eve of the state primary elections.

    “It’s clutter,” said Adiva Sotzsky, whose husband was killed in a distracted driving accident. “Somebody who is coming into a community is looking for streets or a driveway. The campaign signs are getting in the way. It’s going to be a problem.”

    The News4 I-Team captured video of a tall campaign sign erected along Route 4 in Prince George’s County that significantly reduces visibility of crossing and oncoming traffic for drivers attempting left hand turns.

    Snipe Signs & Warning Letters
      12/13 1/14 2/14 3/14 Change Avg. Min. Max.

    Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Worcester

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 108 59 90 53 -41% 67 53 108
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Cecil, Caroline

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 22 43 10 79 690% 44 10 79
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Prince George’s, Montgomery

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 841 117 374 342 -9% 278 117 841
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Baltimore, Harford

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 210 147 95 230 142% 157 95 230
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Charles, St. Mary’s, Calvert, Anne Arundel

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 1,043 16 809 635 -22% 487 16 1,043
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 2 0 5 9   5 0 9
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Allegany, Garrett, Washington

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 15 9 3 25 733% 12 3 25
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Other Contacts 0 9 0 8   6 0 9
    Number of Fines Issued 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued - - - -   - - -

    Howard, Carroll, Frederick

                   
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 134 161 79 97 23% 112 79 161
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 6 0 1 20   7 0 20
    Other Contacts 0 0 0 0   0 0 0
    Number of Fines Issued 2 2 0 1   1 0 2
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued $900 $1,650 - $50   $566.67 - $1,650
    Totals                
    Number of Snipe Signs Pulled 2,373 552 1,460 1,461 0% 1,158 552 2,373
    Number of Warning Letters Sent 8 0 6 29   12 0 29
    Other Contacts 0 9 0 8   6 0 9
    Number of Fines Issued 2 2 0 1   1 0 2
    Dollar Amount of Fines Issued $900 $1,650 - $50   $566.67 - $1,650