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DIA Will Foot The Bill For The New Welcome Sign

By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) - The $14 million welcome sign at Denver International Airport is all but ready to use.

"It's something Denver has been lacking," DIA spokesperson Heath Montgomery said.

"Our own type of signature entrance point a gateway where when you land you unmistakable know you're in the Mile High City."

As they begin testing of the massive electronic sign, questions have been raised about how it's being paid for.

Montgomery says initially it was a partnership with Panasonic. They would deliver and help pay for the initial costs and DIA would share the revenue generated from advertisements.

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DIA spokesperson Heath Montgomery speaks with CBS4. (credit: CBS)

Pena Boulevard, however, is under federal restrictions.

"That National Highway System designation means we are limited to the type of advertising we can do on those signs to what's called 'On-premises advertising' or things that are at the airport," Montgomery said.

The Department of Transportation says the roadway has been designated as such since the early 2000s, but Montgomery says it was surprise to them.

"In 22 years, it's never come up, it's never been a discussion about any of the development or activities that have taken place on or around Pena Boulevard" he said.

On Monday night, Denver City Council amended the deal with Panasonic, leaving DIA to foot the bill.

"We have total confidence that we'll be able to pay for the sign with or without a fix to the national highway system issue," Montgomery said.

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(credit: CBS)

They're now working with Colorado lawmakers to fix the problem.

Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican representing Colorado, has already included language in the 2018 transportation bill that, if approved, would remove that designation.

Montgomery says as long as it's in place it could cause problems far beyond advertising.

"It's really not just to fix the issue with the sign and the advertising on the sign, it's the much broader implications for commercial development on Pena Boulevard and around Pena Boulevard," Montgomery said. "That's a much more concerning issue for us in the long term."

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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