DOT to campaign volunteers: Please don’t place signs in highway right of way

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- With a major election approaching November 4, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is reminding candidates, campaign workers and the general public that state law prohibits placement of any type of sign – including political, commercial or garage sale signs – on highway right of way.

“Stopping along highways or putting items in right of way is strongly discouraged because it’s really a matter of public safety,” said Allan Johnson with WisDOT’s Bureau of Highway Maintenance. Improperly-placed signs:

    Except for official traffic signs, state law prohibits placing any signs or other objects in highway right of way. This prohibition extends to all numbered state, federal and interstate highways, along with county highways, town roads, municipal streets, alleys, bike and pedestrian paths. In general, highway right of way in a rural area extends to beyond shoulders, ditches and any adjoining fence line. In urban areas, right-of-way generally extends beyond the sidewalk.

    Signposts and street name marker posts are always within the right of way. Most utility poles are within highway right of way and can be used as a rough guide for sign placement. If a sign is placed between a utility pole and a roadway – it is likely in an illegal location.

    Signs are not allowed within street terrace areas, highway medians or roundabouts. With the landowner’s consent, political signs are allowed on private property without a billboard permit as long as the signs do not exceed 32 square feet and contain no flashing lights or moving parts.

    Improperly-located signs are dealt with as part of regular highway maintenance. Road maintenance crews are asked to make reasonable attempts to preserve larger, improperly-placed campaign signs and provide campaign offices an opportunity to retrieve them from the municipal maintenance facility.

    “If you see road maintenance workers removing improperly-located signs, remember, they’re simply enforcing state law and keeping roadways as safe as possible for everyone,” Johnson said.

    State law (Section 86.19) provides for a fine from $10 to $500 for signs that violate the law. Local municipalities may have additional guidelines regulating the placement of signs along county highways or local roads and streets. Persons who illegally place signs may also be liable for any damages caused to equipment or people.

    More information on state laws pertaining to the placement of political signs can be found on the WisDOT website at: