With a host of national, state and local elections set for this fall, campaign signs are an increasingly common sight, so the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is reminding candidates, campaign workers and the general public that state law prohibits the placement of any type of sign – including political, commercial or garage sale signs – on highway right-of-way.
“This is not a political issue, this is a matter of public safety,” said Allan Johnson with WisDOT’s Bureau of Highway Maintenance.
He pointed out the improperly placed signs are a distraction and an obstruction for motorists, and could pose a safety risk for people entering highways. Long after the polls are closed, the signs also deteriorate leaving only the wire stakes, which are hard to see and can damage maintenance equipment if it's run over.
State law prohibits the placement of signs within highway right-of-way, which includes 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.
If you need some sort of rough guide, signposts and street name marker posts are always within the right-of-way as are most utility poles. 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. If you want to make sure you're not in the city's right of way, contact the Muskego engineering department (Dave Simpson), 262-679-5686.
Political signs are permitted 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. And of course, with the owner's permission.
Most signs are simply removed by road maintenance crews but reasonable attempts are made to preserve larger, improperly-placed signs and contact campaign offices to pick them up.
Fines from $10 to $500 can be levied for signs in violation. People 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 Web site at: www.dot.wisconsin.gov/business/rules/property-signs-political.htm.