Department of Highways, District 10
Political candidates cautioned against placing signs on state highway right of way
JACKSON, KY. – This year, Kentucky voters will go to the polls to choose various local and state elected officials. Personnel with the Kentucky Department of Highways are already noticing campaign signs illegally placed on the right of way of state-maintained highways. These signs pose various hazards for drivers and for maintenance workers. During each election cycle, state highway workers remove and discard dozens of these illegally-placed signs. Political candidates and their supporters can avoid this by not placing signs on state right of way.
“This is a matter of safety, not only for motorists but for our employees and contractors who put their lives at risk every day to maintain our roads,” said Mark Westfall, chief district engineer for the Department of Highways District 10. The district includes Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Wolfe counties. “These signs restrict sight distance at busy intersections, which are often popular places for these signs to be placed. Some of them can become hazards if they are blown over by the wind and end up on the highway. They are often placed in the ‘clear zone’ which is the recovery zone for motorists who run off the roadway. And others interfere with some of our maintenance activities.”
Since these signs can interfere with driver safety and impede mowing and other maintenance operations along state roads, officials in Frankfort routinely direct maintenance personnel to remove these illegal encroachments on state rights of way. It is anticipated that this action will be required at some point before the May primary election.
Once the sign removal program begins, signs encroaching upon the state's right of way that create a sight distance or other safety hazard or impede maintenance operations will be removed as necessary by Department of Highways personnel. Removed signs will be taken to the state highway garage in each county, where they will be kept for two weeks before being discarded. Owners of the signs may claim them by showing proper identification and completing a claim form.
“State law prohibits the placement of these signs on state highway right of way,” Westfall said. “When it becomes necessary, we will remove these illegally-placed signs so they will not interfere with our mowing and maintenance operations, and so they will not pose a safety hazard to motorists. These signs will be removed without regard to whom they promote. We will treat all illegal signs the same.”
Various Kentucky state laws, administrative regulations and Transportation Cabinet policies prohibit the placement of political or other advertising signs on state right of way. This includes any signs attached to utility poles within the state right of way.
“Because such signs can distract drivers, obstruct sight distance, reduce the recovery zone for drivers who run off the road, negatively impact roadside aesthetics, and interfere with mowing and litter removal, they are expressly prohibited on state right of way and will be removed,” Westfall said.
“When our employees take down illegal signs, they are simply doing their jobs as required by law and as directed by the Department of Highways," Westfall said. "We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of the public.”
Sign removal sweeps are usually publicized well in advance to give candidates the opportunity to remove the signs on their own.
“The safety of the traveling public is our overriding concern,” Westfall said. “There are several valid safety reasons that signs should not be placed on state right of way, and we are committed to keeping our highways as safe as possible.”