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Monday, December 6, 2021
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HomeOpinionEditorialAS WE SEE IT: Increased highway sign cost is too much

AS WE SEE IT: Increased highway sign cost is too much

If you are one of the businesses that advertises on highway signs along I-64, you may soon find yourself priced out of the market by a move from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet that could increase costs for the signage up to four times, and triple the installation costs for each sign.

The costs for hotels, restaurants, and gas stations to get one of those slots on the blue highway signs could double, from $600 per year, per sign, to $1,200 per year, per sign. When you consider that this includes signs at exits for each direction, and that these include both highway signs and signs right at the exit providing general directions to the establishment, that starts to add up to a lot of cash for the businesses involved – and for the state. 

The costs for signage pointing the way to tourist attractions and related locations, though, could increase from $300 per year to $1,200 as well. While this puts them at the same costs as signage for restaurants and gas, the natural areas, museums, and other attractions that used to be offered signage at a discounted rate rarely turn the same kind of profits as other highway businesses. That means quadrupling their costs to announce themselves to visitors could have a big impact on whether they purchase signs for another year. 

While it’s more modest overall, the cost to put up one of the signs, should you decide to purchase one at $1,200, has also increased. That price has gone from $100 per sign for installation to $300 per sign. 

The state’s reason for requesting an increase is spelled out in the proposed regulation. 

It reads, in part, “The necessity for the establishment or increase in the fees is due to the fact that the fees have not been adjusted since the administrative regulation became effective. In more than a decade of effectiveness, this administrative regulation has fallen behind in maintaining competitive fees… (compared to) fees collected by sister states.”

In essence, the state hasn’t updated any of their fees to account for inflation or increased costs over the last ten years, and now they are trying to play catch-up. 

It’s a catch-up that could net the state a handy little profit too. David Thompson, with the Kentucky Press Association, did a little math the other night based on one exit on I-64, toward Frankfort and Versailles. He counted a total of 26 ad signs. That totals up to $31,200 for the state, for one direction. If you count the signs on both the eastbound and westbound lanes you are looking at $62,400. That’s for one exit. At exit 125 in Georgetown, he noted, there are 29 total signs, for $34,800 a year – in each direction – for the single exit. 

When you multiply that by the number of towns and exits across the state, it adds up to a tidy windfall for the transportation cabinet. 

And it’s understandable that, eventually, costs may have to go up. You can’t continue selling things at the same price they were when your material and labor costs were much cheaper

But you can’t expect businesses to pay for ten years of neglect on the state’s part all at once. Especially in the midst of a pandemic when businesses are struggling to bounce back from the previous year’s shutdowns and quarantines. 

The cabinet will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulation on November 22, with comments accepted until midnight, November 30. 

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association and other industry groups are bound to attend that meeting, in an attempt to sway transportation cabinet plans for their members’ benefit, and right now we support that push. 

While an increase might be needed, it needs to be a more modest increase; at least for now. The costs for signs pointing to tourist locations, attractions, and non-profits need to stay at a discounted rate too. These not only enrich the lives of Kentuckians and visitors who travel the state’s highways, they also draw in visitors who might purchase food or refreshments from local businesses around the attraction. 

We can’t support this plan as long as it will have the outsized impact on our small businesses that it currently seems it will. 

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