Candidates are reminded that it is illegal to place signs inside state rights-of-way, which includes the area along highways or on bridges. In this photo from 2018, ODOT maintenance workers pause mowing operations to remove a large campaign sign from along the highway.
As the 2020 election season shifts into high gear approaching the summer, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is reminding political candidates and volunteers to not jeopardize safety and to do their part in saving taxpayer money and keeping Oklahoma’s highways and interstates free of unsightly litter.
Placing yard signs to help promote candidates may be a long-standing tradition in Oklahoma politics, but the areas along highways or on bridges are off-limits. State law actually prohibits such signs from being placed in state rights-of-way due to safety concerns. In addition to potentially blocking drivers’ views at intersections or ramps, illegal 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 nearest fence.
The best strategy for safe and 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 pull them out of the ground, which can be time-consuming and hazardous. Removal of litter, including illegal signs, also delays highway mowing since the signs and posts could potentially damage state equipment.
Each year, nearly $6 million is 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 removing litter.