WASHINGTON (AP) - Who would have thought that something so humble as a street sign could ignite such passion?
The Obama administration sought to distance itself Tuesday from an obscure transportation regulation that requires local governments to replace street signs with more reflective signs that use upper and lower case letters instead of all capitals.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that it "makes no sense" to require local governments to spend money to replace "perfectly good traffic signs." He promised to seek public comment on the regulation, the first step in a process that could lead to its repeal. LaHood doesn't have power to eliminate the regulation on his own.
Local officials in Wisconsin and New York have complained to the Transportation Department that the requirement to have the new signs by 2018 could cost them millions of dollars.
In recent weeks, conservative critics have lampooned the regulation as an example of big brother government. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has vowed to stop regulators from enforcing it.
"ALL-CAP Street Signs MUST DIE!" exclaimed a headline on the libertarian-leaning Reason magazine's Web site.
"For a good nanny, there's no case too big or too small when it comes to protecting people from themselves," blogged RedState.
Research shows more reflective signs are easier for drivers see at night and a mix of lower and upper case letters is easier to read. The regulation was proposed during former President George W. Bush's administration and went into effect last year after President Barack Obama took office.
"There have got to be better ways to improve safety without piling costs onto the American people," LaHood said. "Safety is our priority, but so is good government."