Caltrans reinstates freeway sign, banner ban

| Thursday, September 26, 2002

Reversing its position once again, the California Department of Transportation said Sept. 23 that safety concerns have forced the agency to remove all banners and signs - including American flags - posted along freeways.

The latest decision comes two weeks after Caltrans said it would leave up all banners that do not pose a safety hazard. But that position was a reversal of a previous Caltrans announcement that freeway displays, including flags, would be removed.

The agency's policy on freeway displays came under scrutiny last year when two Santa Cruz women sued the department because anti-war signs were removed while American flags remained. The judge hearing the case ordered Caltrans to either remove all freeway signs, banners and flags or allow all such displays to remain, regardless of message.

In its immediate response to the January court order, Caltrans ordered the removal of all freeway displays, including U.S. flags hung after last year's terrorist attacks. But earlier this month, the agency reversed its position and said it would allow all banners, signs and flags on freeway property as long as they were securely fastened.

But since the new policy was announced, officials say they worry the many people throughout the state who have flocked to bridges and overpasses to hang signs, banners and flags could be injured while hanging the displays. Caltrans is appealing the court order. The appeal is scheduled to be heard in October.

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