WisDOT: Little signs are a big headache for highway maintenance crews

For more information, contact:

Deborah Brucaya, Outdoor Advertising Program Coordinator

(608) 266-3813, Deborah.brucaya@dot.wi.gov

New law allows fines for businesses placing signs in rights-of-way

One sign of spring is the start of the rummage sale season. Small hand-made or store-bought signs announcing neighborhood garage sales may be a handy way to direct bargain hunters to a sale, but if they’re placed within a highway right of way, they’re considered an illegal sign and are subject to removal by highway maintenance crews. People who post the signs are also subject to a $10 forfeiture.

Additionally, a new law prohibits businesses from placing any type of advertising sign within a highway right of way. Businesses violating that law are subject to a $50 forfeiture. While the new law’s $50 penalty provision does not apply to signs put up by real estate brokers or salespersons, real estate for sale signs are subject to the $10 forfeiture provisions of state law.

“Highway maintenance crews are doing their spring cleanup chores along state highways and it makes their duties more difficult if they have to remove signs from rights of way, as well,” noted David Vieth, director of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Highway Operations. “When they come across a sign that is unmistakably on state highway right-of-way, our crews are instructed to remove it. This applies to political, house for sale, garage sale, painter for hire, work at home, or other types of temporary, non-approved signs.”

In addition to being illegal, signs in rights of way, especially those affixed to wire frames, can become a hazard if they are struck by mowing equipment or if they require crews to have to climb off their equipment to clear them from the right of way.