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Bill would shrink signs at service areas along the Mass Pike

Posted by Daniel Adams  July 11, 2011 01:15 PM

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A state legislative committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would restrict the size and lighting of signs at service areas on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation will consider the bill proposed by state Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat, who introduced it in response to complaints he said he has received from people living near the Natick rest stop on the Pike.

The bill would limit the size of signage advertising gas stations, restaurants and other services to no more than 80 square feet, according a release. Also under the bill, artificial lighting on signs over 30 feet tall would have to be turned off from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The owners of existing signs would have the option of either blacking out the signs at night, or making them smaller in order to keep the lights on, said Linksy in an interview.

Linsky said he was particularly concerned about McDonald’s signs that tower over rest stops, especially the one in Natick.

“This is an issue that has been of concern in my district in Natick for many years,” Linsky said. “The signs actually illuminate two separate neighborhoods, especially during winter when leaves are off the trees. This is visual pollution at its worst.”

“McDonald's, quite frankly, is not being a good neighbor,” Linsky continued. “If they were anywhere else in town, [the signs] would be illegal under Natick town bylaws… This [bill] is to bring signs into conformance with local laws.”

In a prepared statement, McDonald’s director of development in the Boston region Michael Kuronen said that the sign heights had been jointly determined in partnership with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

“The purpose for the height and size of the signs is for safety and visibility,” Kuronen said in the statement. “Sign tests were performed by the MTA and McDonald’s with the help of the State Police, and the heights and sizes were chosen based on geography, topography and trees within each specific area. Our concern was to advise drivers who are traveling [at] speeds of 65-75 mph that need to make a lane change in order to enter the facilities.”

Linsky called McDonald’s assertions “ridiculous.”

“I find that argument insulting, frankly,” he said. “It doesn't hold any water when you realize the signs are visible from the eastbound and westbound lanes, when of course you can only get to it from one direction.”

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Hearing Room B1 at the Massachusetts State House.

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