Va. may implement sign inspection rules after wind-whipped I-95 closure

Virginia is working on new sign inspection rules after problems with the Potomac Mills sign last year forced a dayslong closure of part of Interstate 95.

A bill this year would have set inspection requirements for signs that are tall enough to threaten highway safety and outlined who would pay for any emergency response if something happened; it passed the state Senate 29-11, but died in a House subcommittee.

Still, sign owners, VDOT and others plan to continue discussions over the next few months to reach an agreement, Virginia Department of Transportation Director of Governance and Legislative Affairs JoAnne Maxwell said Wednesday.

“We’ve all committed to looking at this issue and to seeing if we can’t come up with legislation that would basically be something that the sign owners could agree to, and that VDOT could agree to and potentially localities could agree to,” Maxwell told the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The hope is to have an agreement by November so that a bill could be prefiled for the 2020 session that begins in January.

“The legislation was prompted by the Potomac Mills sign incident,” Maxwell said. “We determined that it might be necessary for owners of these signs to be taking a more careful look or keep better tabs on the state or condition of these signs.”

The Potomac Mills sign was damaged in a massive windstorm last year and teetered, bent for days until it could be ripped down.

A replacement with a different design has just been installed in the same location.

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