Elections, News, Transportation

ODOT reminds campaigns to keep political signs out of state highway rights of way

Just over one month remains until the November 8 General Election, and in a sure sign of the election season, the Oregon Department of Transportation is again reminding campaigners to keep their signs out of the right of way. 

“Every election season, we receive complaints from the public and from candidates regarding the improper placement of political signs on the state highway rights-of-way, where only official traffic control devices are allowed. Improperly placed signs can distract drivers and block road safety messages,” ODOT said in a press release issued September 23. 

If a sign is taken down, they’ll be stored for thirty days at a nearby ODOT district maintenance office. For this region, located in ODOT’s district 1, that means an improperly placed sign could find itself in Astoria, a lengthy drive for western Washington Co. residents. 

A full list of district offices and their contact info is available online

It’s up to campaigns to find where the right of way ends; a map showing state highway boundaries can be found at ormap.net. Those placing signs can also contact their region’s maintenance office for assistance. 

Local and county regulations exist for signage along roadways, too. 

Those placing signs along roads in unincorporated Washington County should note that the county has similar rules for signs placed in the right of way, while the city of Banks has their own regulations covering the matter

ODOT said the following applied to signs placed on private property within view of a state highway: 

Signs are limited to 12 square feet but can be up to 32 square feet with a variance from our Oregon Advertising Sign

– Signs cannot have flashing or intermittent lights, or animated or moving parts.

– Signs must not imitate official highway signs or devices.

– Signs are not allowed in scenic corridors.

– No payment or compensation of any kind can be exchanged for either the placement of or the message on temporary signs, including political signs, which are visible to a state highway.

In 2020, at least two political flags expressing support for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign were hung over Highway 26 in at least two locations, 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, featuring an expletive, 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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