by Brad Rogers
AUGUSTA (WGME) — In Augusta, several state lawmakers are pushing for more signs along Maine’s interstates and highways, but some Mainers worry if exceptions are made for one it will open the door for others to put up signs of their own.
36 years ago, Maine became the second state in the nation to outlaw billboards alongside Maine’s highways. These are some of the last billboards to come down. So for the last 36 years, for the most part, signs advertising businesses have only been allowed on the actual business property.
The law passed back in 1977 is designed to protect Maine’s natural beauty, by not cluttering up the highways with billboards and signs. But several lawmakers right now are seeking exceptions to that law.
Right now, there are nine separate bills to allow signs along Maine’s interstates directing people to various attractions like historic sites, snowmobile trails, and the oxford casino.
Rep. Roger Jackson (R), Oxford: “I’ve requested that we have a sign put at the Auburn exit and one at the gray exit depicting the routes to the Oxford Casino.”
State representative Roger Jackson, from Oxford, says oxford casino is now the third most visited attraction in Maine, and deserves these signs.
Jackson: “This bill is in no way connected with billboards. It is signage, directional signage such as we already have on the interstate for the Augusta civic center, for the Lewiston sports complex.”
The natural resources council of Maine opposes any exceptions to Maine’s billboard and sign laws. Pete Didisheim says Mainers don’t need or want these directional signs.
Pete Didisheim: “They’ve got GPS, they’ve got smart phones, they’ve got tablets, they’ve got on board navigation services. One legislator after another wants to mandate that signs be put up for one reason or another. And in isolation, each one of those proposals kinds of sounds ok. But it’s such a slippery slope.”
A poll out asks “should lawmakers create exemptions to Maine’s prohibition on billboards?” 15% says yes, 85% say no.
It will be up to the transportation committee to see if any of these sign bills makes it to the floor of the house and senate.