October 1 Begins Warning Period for Illegal Commercial Signs; Fines up to $25 to be Issued Starting January 2012
ANNAPOLIS (October 19, 2011)—The recent economic boom in southern Maryland brought along with it highway sign pollution, often in the form of advertisements for new home development by high-end builders and other businesses seeking low-cost advertising. Now, travelers along routes in the tri-county area should see a lot fewer illegally placed signs along State-maintained highways. A new law which took effect Oct. 1 allows the State Highway Administration (SHA) and local governments to recuperate costs of removing illegal signs from highways.
SHA is responsible for more than 17,000 miles of roadway statewide including the maintenance and regulation of outdoor advertising. Crews pick up illegal signs throughout the year, costing tax payers
an estimated $600,000 annually.
Passed in the 2011 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 410 provides a three-month warning period before a sign fee can be issued to persons illegally posting signs on state highways. After January 1, 2012 persons who place signs within State rights-of-way are subject to a $25.00 fine for each sign placed.
Illegal signs can become roadway debris and hazards for drivers, endanger or hinder maintenance crews and clog drainage systems, said Acting Administrator and Deputy Transportation Secretary Darrell B. Mobley. We appreciate the economic benefit of local businesses and the need to advertise. Business owners can work with SHA through partnerships that support branding including logo and sponsorship programs and of course, advertising through existing billboards.
Signs are an important source of information for travelers—speed limits, directions, exits, destinations and warnings. There are national standards to make it easy for drivers to quickly recognize those signs and process the information conveyed such regulatory signs for lane restrictions or green informational signs on the highway system.
Other signs distract drivers and in some cases, can impede the sight distance for drivers and block legal signs from view. These signs also affect maintenance operations, interfere with the work of utility crews and mar the landscape along Marylands scenic routes, say State officials.
Along state highways—including interstates, US and Maryland numbered routes—private signs are prohibited in the medians and along the sides on the public property or right-of-way. The illegal signs are often found attached to utility poles or stacked together on wooden posts littering medians.
SHA has programs in place to help businesses and other agencies comply with Federal and State law. To learn more about outdoor advertising regulations and programs in Maryland, visit http://somd.me/road-signs .