Elections, News, Transportation

ODOT, County: Keep political signs out of right of way

The Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington County Land Use and Transportation are once again asking people to stop putting election signs in state-owned rights of way. 

According to both agencies, temporary election signs are not permitted in their right of ways, including on utility poles, trees, fence posts, in natural areas alongside highways, and more. For more information on signage on ODOT rights of way, visit their right of way website.

“The public right-of-way includes ditches, shoulders and sidewalks,” the county said in a statement. “Areas between utility poles on both sides of the road is also usually inside the right-of-way. Signs attached to traffic signposts, streetlights or utility poles are illegal.”

Those rules apply only to those county streets located outside city limits, most cities have their own sign rules. 

In general, signs on private property that can be seen from a state highway must be 12 square feet or less, be posted on a temporary basis of 60 days or less, may not be affixed to a permanent base, cannot have flashing lights, animation, or moving parts, and cannot imitate an official highway sign. They must be placed on private property, and cannot be accessed from a public right of way. 

Courtesy Washington County LUT

Those on an unincorporated Washington County road should consult the Washington County Community Development Code for the rules governing temporary signs. Residents in Banks city limits must abide by the city’s sign code.

Political signs placed on state highway rights of way could be removed without notice and held at the local ODOT district maintenance office for 30 days. 

At least two political flags expressing support for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign were hung over Highway 26 in at least two locations in 2020, prompting removals by ODOT and the Port of Tillamook Bay. 

In early September of 2020, one such sign was placed on the overhanging sign at the junction of Highway 6 and 26 headed westbound toward Banks. The other sign was located on the old railroad trestle/Salmonberry Trail right of way between Buxton and the Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel. 

The trestle there is owned by the Port of Tillamook Bay; in an email to the Banks Post in 2020, the Port’s General Manager, Michele Bradley, said the sign was not allowed to be hung on the trestle and that someone would be dispatched to remove it. 

“The POTB does not allow political campaign signs on our right of way. All signs we find in our right of way are removed as we discover them or are notified about them. Non-political signs (businesses, etc.) are allowed with approval and by easement with the POTB,” Bradley said, adding that to have hung the sign would require trespassing on the railroad right of way, a federal offense, according to Bradley.

Those who wish to see an illegally placed sign on a county right of way be removed should contact the county by email at [email protected], submit a service request or call 503-846-7623.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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