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A dim law? Imagine Times Square without billboards

Marketplace Contributor Jul 24, 2015
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If you had to classify the streets that run through Times Square — Seventh Avenue and Broadway— what would you call them? Streets? Avenues? “Principal arterials,” perhaps?

Onlookers take photos in Times Square.

Onlookers take photos in Times Square.

If you guessed the last answer, you must be up on your transit taxonomy.

The name matters because how city streets are classified has big implications in the eyes of the federal government. When the federal law called Moving Ahead for Progress made “principal arterials” into highways, Broadway and Seventh Avenue became highways. And that in turn puts most of the billboards in Times Square, at least technically, in violation of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. By law, the city could lose federal funding if the billboards don’t come down.

But city, state and federal officials say they’re looking for a solution to keep the billboards.

New York University professor Mitchell Moss calls it a “bureaucratic hiccup.”

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