The city council in Ames, Iowa has chosen to disregard a sharply-worded request from federal officials to remove its rainbow, ‘inclusion-themed’ crosswalks at a downtown intersection, according to the Ames Tribune.
“My only question is, do we need to do anything?” said council member Chris Nelson in response to the letter from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. “Can we just accept the letter and say thank you?”
City Attorney Mark Lambert said that since the request did not ask for a response, written or verbal from the city, council could ignore it.
“As I said in my memo, (FHWA) couldn’t explain to me how they had jurisdiction over city streets, they were unaware of any penalties, and said they were still research that,” Lambert said. “Frankly, I think that according to the manual itself, there’s a good argument we’re not violating the manual, since there’s no prohibition on colors.” – Ames Tribune
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The crosswalks on Douglas Avenue feature various colors meant to be inclusive of minority groups; rainbows for LGBT, and brown and black for people of color.
According to Forbes, the crosswalk to the east of Fifth Street “features gender non-binary pride colors of purple, black, yellow and white, and the crosswalk to the west features transgender pride colors of blue, white and pink.”
The September 5 letter received by the city from FHWA assistant division administrator Mark Johnson informed the council that their new crosswalks posed a danger to pedestrians, suggesting they “take the necessary steps to remove the non-compliant crosswalk art as soon as it is feasible.”
“The white crosswalk markings allowed are tested and proven to be recognized as a legally marked crossing location for pedestrians,” wrote Johnson. “Crosswalk art diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic.”
City Attorney Mark Lambert, however, told the Des Moines Register that Fifth Street and Douglas Avenue aren’t federal roads – so they can pound sand.
“In terms of jurisdiction, we don’t believe the highway administration has any,” said Lambert, adding “With the system of federalism in the United States, the federal government does not have jurisdiction over everything.”
“I note that the FHWA’s letter included a ‘request’ — not a demand — for the city to remove the colored crosswalk markings. This is not a lawful order or demand by a federal agency, it is merely a request.”
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