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 outdooradvertisingrenewals@vdot.virginia.gov .

What will happen if I put my sign in the right of way?

Section 33.1-373, Code of Virginia, prohibits signs and advertisements within the limits of the highway. 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.

 § 33.1-373. 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. 

When in doubt call to find out!

Page last modified: Aug. 13, 2013