Tricounty News

Unauthorized signs and objects

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reminds citizens that state law prohibits the placement of unauthorized signs and other objects on state highway right of way.

"With the warm-weather months beginning, there is a significant increase of advertising signs and items for sale placed illegally along the state's roadways with the sole purpose of attracting the attention of passing motorists," said Mark Renn, Mn/DOT's roadway regulations supervisor in St. Cloud.

Encroachment of highway right-of-way is a misdemeanor violation punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. State law also says that signs and other items may not be placed on private property outside of the right-of-way limits, but in proximity to a roadway without the expressed consent of the landowner.

"Illegally-placed signs and objects on the roadway can restrict the visibility of drivers in many situations, especially at intersections, and divert the persons attention away from their primary task of operating a motor vehicle safely," adds Ken Larson, Mn/DOT's roadway regulations supervisor in Baxter.

Mn/DOT crews will remove all signs within the right-of-way without notice. This procedure is done in an impartial manner so that all sign removals are treated equally, whether they are political, business, non-profit organization or private citizen.

The sign may be held for five working days, usually at the nearest maintenance truck station, and then discarded.

With large objects that cannot be easily removed, Mn/DOT roadway regulations specialists may issue a written "Notice of Violation" to the party responsible for encroachment on highway right-of-way. The notice requires them to remove the item within a specific time frame or receive a citation.

Unauthorized signs appear in all shapes and sizes and run the gamut from real estate open houses to garage sales, and various public and private events and activities. Larger and more dangerous objects that are often placed illegally in the right of way include automobiles and other motorized vehicles, boats and motors, campers and travel trailers, produce and fireworks stands, and large round hay bales.

In addition to the safety factors, all of these objects catch debris, inhibit proper drainage, restrict mowing, spraying, and other road-maintenance activities, and create visual pollution.

The larger objects are extremely hazardous if a vehicle runs off the road and strikes it, causing injury or death to the occupants as well as property damage. Civil liability is usually extended to the person or party who created the safety hazard by unlawfully placing the unauthorized sign or other item on the highway right of way. The responsible party may be sued for damages.

For information regarding roadway regulations, right-of-way boundaries, or where to find removed materials, please contact Mark Renn at the Mn/DOT office in St. Cloud at (320) 223-6522, toll free (800) 657-3961; or Ken Larson in Baxter at (218) 828-5777 or toll free at (800) 657-3971.