10/22/2020 – As the Nov. 3 general election approaches, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reminds political candidates and volunteers to stay safe, save taxpayer money and keep Oklahoma’s highways and interstates free of unsightly, damaging and costly litter by keeping campaign signs out of highway rights-of-way.
Placing campaign signs to help promote candidates may be a regular occurrence, but the areas along highways or on bridges remain off-limits. State law strictly prohibits such signs from being placed in state rights-of-way because of safety concerns. Not only can illegally placed signs block drivers’ views at intersections, medians, or ramps, but the sign placement endangers volunteers who try to post them along high-speed roadways or on bridges. Generally, the public right-of-way includes the area of grass between a highway and the nearby fence. In cities and towns, the right-of-way can extend past the curb to include the grass and sidewalk area along a highway.
“We ask all candidates and their supporters to respect the law and protect our motorists and workers by not placing campaign signs on state highway rights-of-way and bridges,” ODOT Maintenance Engineer Taylor Henderson said.
The best strategy for safe, legal politicking is for candidates to place signs on private property with the landowner’s permission. Inside city limits, candidates should check local ordinances for questions regarding municipal streets and rights-of-way. However, even within city limits, signs are prohibited on state-maintained highways, overpasses and bridges.
When signs are illegally placed, ODOT crews spend time away from other highway maintenance operations to remove them, which can be time-consuming, hazardous and dangerous work close to oncoming traffic. Removal of litter, including illegal signs, also delays highway mowing since the signs and metal posts could damage state equipment.
Each year, nearly $6 million in taxpayer dollars are spent by the department to pick up trash along Oklahoma highways, including illegally placed signs. This money comes out of ODOT’s maintenance budget, the same source of funds for patching potholes, repairing guardrail, mowing and clearing snow and ice. This expense is in addition to the untold amounts of time and money volunteer groups and local governments spend annually removing litter.
The department reminds candidates to obey the law and keep campaign signs off Oklahoma bridges and highway rights-of-way.