Caltrans’ new policy: No banners at all allowed on overpasses |

Caltrans’ new policy: No banners at all allowed on overpasses

John HartThe American flag and a peace banner hang on the Brunswick Road overpass Monday afternoon.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The California Department of Transportation’s decision Monday to order the removal of flags and other banners from freeway overpasses puzzled some Nevada County residents, who thought they could again hang such items.

“At first, I was angry. I don’t know what to say,” said Grass Valley resident Dave Miles, who rehung an American flag on an overpass fronting the northbound lanes of the Golden Center Freeway a few days ago.

After last year’s terrorist attacks, people hung flags and signs of peace on overpasses before Caltrans ordered them removed, claiming they were hazardous to motorists.

“I think they’re stealing my rights,” said Miles, 45, a Grass Valley plastering contractor.

Just last week, Caltrans said it would comply with a January court order by leaving up flags and banners that did not pose a safety hazard. Judge Ronald Whyte of the U.S. District Court in San Jose issued that order, saying the agency could not grant exemptions for U.S. flags.

Until Monday, Caltrans’ policy was to remove all banners and signs except U.S. flags.

The state agency reversed course Monday.

Miles, however, said he’s not angry at Caltrans for ordering him to take down Old Glory.

He believes the decision was made in part because of the myriad signs asking for peace and nonviolence that were hung alongside American flags.

One such sign was hung by Shirley McDonald of Nevada CIty, who placed a heart-and-peace emblem banner on the same overpass at 2 p.m. Monday. The sign reads, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

McDonald isn’t offended by Caltrans’ change of heart.

“I feel fine with whatever the court said, as long as they leave everything up or everything down,” she said.

A Nevada City teacher, McDonald, 54, said she’s glad she was briefly able to send a message to those favoring war with Iraq or other forms of U.S. -backed military action.

“It felt really good to have that message out to the world again,” she said.

McDonald said she sends prayers to President George W. Bush to give the nation’s commander-in-chief guidance.

Miles, however, believes he’s simply doing his patriotic duty by flying the Stars and Stripes before the motoring public.

“Somebody down there (at Caltrans) needs to develop a backbone,” he said. “The president said to fly the flag, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m following the law.”

– The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

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