Outdoor Advertising and State Right of Way
What is “right of way?”
State-maintained right of way is property along a roadway on either side. This area does not belong to individual property owners. It must be kept clear for motorist safety and so road crews have room to work.
Where is the right of way located?
There is no standard right of way distance for every road. Generally, the right of way ranges from 25 to 150 feet from the road’s center line. Due to this wide range, it’s important to find out exact right-of-way distance before installing a sign or objects near a road.
Can I place a sign along the road?
Signs cannot be on or overhanging state right of way. An off-premise advertising sign adjacent to the right of way requires an Outdoor Advertising Permit.
How do I obtain an Outdoor Advertising Permit?
Companies, organizations or individuals who want to place outdoor advertising signs adjacent to the right of way should call 804-786-0654 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
What will happen if I put my sign in the right of way?
Section 33.2-1224, Code of Virginia, prohibits signs and advertisements within the limits of the highway. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is authorized to remove any sign that is in violation of state code, especially if it interferes with roadside maintenance or presents a safety hazard to motorists.
In addition, the agency can levy a $100 civil penalty for each sign violation. VDOT also works with localities and the Adopt-A-Highway program to enforce this law.
§ 33.2-1224. Signs or advertising on rocks, poles, etc., within limits of highway; civil penalty.
Any person who in any manner (i) paints, prints, places, puts or affixes any sign or advertisement upon or to any rock, stone, tree, fence, stump, pole, mile-board, milestone, danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost, highway sign, historical marker, building, or other object lawfully within the limits of any highway or (ii) erects, paints, prints, places, puts, or affixes any sign or advertisement within the limits of any highway shall be assessed a civil penalty of $100. Each occurrence shall be subject to a separate penalty. All civil penalties collected under this section shall be paid into the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. Signs or advertisements placed within the limits of the highway are hereby declared a public and private nuisance and may be forthwith removed, obliterated, or abated by the Commissioner of Highways or his representatives without notice. The Commissioner of Highways may collect the cost of such removal, obliteration, or abatement from the person erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, affixing or using such sign or advertisement. When no one is observed erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, or affixing such sign or advertisement, the person, firm or corporation being advertised shall be presumed to have placed the sign or advertisement and shall be punished accordingly. Such presumption, however, shall be rebuttable by competent evidence. In addition, the Commissioner or his representative may seek to enjoin any recurring violator of this section. The Commissioner of Highways may enter into agreements with any local governing body authorizing local law-enforcement agencies or other local governmental entities to act as agents of the Commissioner for the purpose of (i) enforcing the provisions of this section and (ii) collecting the penalties and costs provided for in this section. Any such agreement may provide that penalties and costs collected pursuant to such agreement shall be paid as agreed.
VDOT’s Role in Outdoor Advertising Control
Signs within sight of state highways must meet certain requirements and, in many cases, require a permit from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), as well as permission from the local government.
In 1939, Virginia’s first outdoor advertising laws were created and the department began administering and enforcing them.
Congress included a voluntary program for controls adjacent to the interstate system in 1958 and provided that a state could receive a bonus for compliance.
Congress enacted the Highway Beautification Act in 1965.
That act controlled the erection and maintenance of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices in areas adjacent to the interstate and primary highway systems.
Federal and state outdoor advertising laws:
- Promote the safety, recreational values, convenience and enjoyment of travel on and protection of public Investment in highways
- Attract tourists and promote the prosperity, economic well-being and general welfare
- Preserve and enhance the natural scenic beauty of aesthetic features of the highways and adjacent areas
Outdoor Advertising Laws and Mandates
- Bonus agreement, 1962
- Federal/state agreement, 1967
- Outdoor advertising license (to engage in the business of outdoor advertising)
- Outdoor advertising permit (to erect and maintain an advertising sign)
- Permit transfer (of the outdoor advertising sign and permit ownership)
- Non-conforming sign repair
Call 804-786-0654 or email us.
- Program Manager: S. Dwaine Ware
- Senior Agents: Jay Whay and Jason Tackett
- Agents: Mike Marr, Dave Sims and Caroline Crowder