Design & Construction Standards
What to know before posting signs in Alaska:
Campaign advertising is an important and sometimes expensive investment for campaign organizers. To help campaigns understand the limitations of advertising along Alaska roads and highways DOT&PF offers the following resources to help formulate a lawful marketing plan.
Federal and State laws and public demand require the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) to regularly inspect and maintain over 5,600 miles of State roads to ensure:
- the continued safety of the traveling public;
- compliance with Federal and State laws and mandates;
- uninterrupted Federal funding for public projects; and
- preservation of Alaska's unique and scenic beauty.
Every year DOT&PF accepts hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funding for our transportation systems and public facilities. Failure to enforce the applicable statutes and regulations places that funding in jeopardy.
Origin of authority and responsibility
In response to 23 U.S.C. § 131, the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, and 23 CFR § 750 Alaskans overwhelmingly voted to adopt statutes under AS 19.25.075 ‑ AS 19.25.180 and regulations under 17 AAC 20.005 - 17 AAC 20.013 to ensure public safety and federal regulatory compliance, and preserve the state's scenic beauty by minimizing outdoor advertising.
Consistent with those laws and regulations, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) reminds the public that it is illegal to place unauthorized signs, including both political and commercial advertising, within State highway right of ways. Use of these right of ways are governed by Federal and State laws; unauthorized use is illegal and poses a threat to the safety of the traveling public. Alaska law also has strict limits on commercial advertising in areas adjacent to State highways.
Superior Court lawsuit regarding political signs
In 2018 the Alaska Chapter of the Americans Civil Liberties Union filed suit in the Alaska Superior Court regarding campaign signs and free speech. As a result of the lawsuit the State and Federal funding partners agreed to allow certain signs on private property adjacent to State right of ways. The court issued an order clarifying that owners or occupants of private property located adjacent to State highway right of ways may place a small, temporary, political campaign sign on their property during election season provided they have not been paid to display the signs. The order specifies that these signs cannot be larger than 4 feet by 8 feet in size. The order does not allow political signs to be placed within State highway right of ways and it does not authorize other forms of outdoor advertising.
This webpage reflects the current laws and restrictions on enforcement and the final outcome of the lawsuit.
Nov. 13, 2018 Stipulated Final Judgement and Order
Sept. 13, 2018, Updated Guidance Regarding Political Campaign Signs
The “Updated Guidance Regarding Political Campaign Signs” supersedes the Sept. 7, 2017,letter to campaign organizers distributed in September 2017 and July 2018.
Sept. 11, 2018 Press release
Prohibitions on Outdoor Advertising in Alaska
AS 19.25.075 - AS 19.25.180 address signs as a particular subset of encroachments and State and Federal laws define outdoor advertising to include “any outdoor sign, display, or device used to advertise, attract attention, or inform and which is visible to a person on the main-traveled way of a highway of the interstate, primary, or secondary systems in this state, whether by printing, writing, painting, picture, light, drawing, or whether by the use of figures or objects, or a combination of these, or any other thing designed, intended, or used to advertise, inform, or attract attention”.
AS 19.25.075 declares the people of Alaska’s findings that “billboards endanger Alaska’s uniqueness and scenic beauty” and intent that “Alaska shall forever remain free of billboards” and AS 19.25.080 further declares nonconforming signs “a public nuisance”. AS 19.25.090 prohibits all outdoor advertising except where permitted in AS 19.25.105.
Additional sections within Alaska law follow Federal restrictions on signage displayed both within and along the State’s highway right of ways, including advertising visible from the road and outside the State’s highway right of way. Unauthorized signs may include, but are not limited to, business signs, real estate signs advertising property for sale at another location, and parked vehicles with advertising.
Signs within DOT&PF right of ways, including signs on vehicles
Signs withinthe State’s highway right of ways are prohibited by AS 19.25.105 (d), 17 AAC 20.010, and 17 AAC 20.012. In accordance with 17 AAC 20.005 (f) and 17 AAC 20.012 (a) this prohibition also pertains to signs mounted or resting on vehicles parked in the State’s highway right of way or in a highway rest stop or pullout.These provisions remain intact after the 2018 lawsuit.
Signs adjacent to DOT&PF right of ways, including signs on private property
AS 19.25.105 (a) and (c) state that signs on private or commercial property adjacent to the State’s highway right of way may not be located within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right of way or erected or maintained with the purpose of their message being read from the main traveled way. Much of the wording in these provisions comes from Federal laws previously cited. However the November 13, 2018 order specifically allows the display of small, temporary, political campaign signs on private property outside State’s highway right of ways. The order requires that these signs must be:
- no larger than 4’ X 8’; and
- located on private property by the owner or occupant of the property, who may not be paid to display the signs.
In addition, the Sept. 10, 2018, order provides that:
- DOT&PF may continue to remove signs that pose a safety concern: Any sign of any size that poses a safety concern may be removed by DOT&PF, regardless of what the sign says or where it is located.
- Paid, off-premises outdoor advertising remains prohibited: The court specifically stated that the State’s prohibition on paid, off-premises outdoor advertising, such as billboards, remains intact.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How will I know where I am not permitted to advertise?
Begin by searching for the route in question in the Federal Aid Highways: Interstate, Primary, and Secondary Highways of Alaska . Additional resources are available on the State’s Right-of-Way Map page.
The extent of the State’s highway right of ways are not always easily visible on the ground. However, the law also prohibits signs outside of the right of way but visible from the traveled way except signs allowed under AS 19.25.105, and except those signs addressed in the Alaska Superior Court’s November 13, 2018 Stipulated Final Order and Judgment. DOT&PF staff will make every effort to work with the public. For assistance related to specific roads and highways, contact the appropriate Regional Right-of-Way office.Map of DOT&PF Regional Boundaries
- Central Region Right of Way, Anchorage 907.269.0700
- Northern Region Right of Way, Fairbanks 907.451.5401
- SouthCoast Region Right of Way, Juneau 907.465.4444
- What will DOT&PF do with signs within the State’s highway right of ways?
DOT&PF may immediately remove from within the State’s highway right of ways unauthorized signs and vehicles displaying advertisements without notification or compensation. Other authorized agents, such as public safety officers, may also continue to remove signs.
- What will DOT&PF do about signs adjacent to the State’s highway right of ways that are still prohibited or deemed unsafe?
Under AS 19.25.150, notice of violation and request for compliance will be sent to the property owner. Courtesy notice may also be sent to the company or service provider advertised.
AS 19.25.150 requires DOT&PF to remove the offending item and 17 AAC 20.013 states removal is “at the expense of the owner of the land or the person who erected it.” Enforcement actions are prioritized based primarily on safety considerations and available resources.
DOT&PF makes every effort to treat all property and business owners with fairness and respect. In recent years, DOT&PF has contacted thousands of business and property owners to inform them of the applicable laws and request removal of unlawful outdoor advertising. In most instances, owners voluntarily remove the items identified.
- What are the penalties for violation?
In accordance with AS 19.25.130, 17 AAC 20.012 (c), and 17 AAC 20.013 (c) a person who violates these statutes and regulations is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction will be fined at least $50 and as much as $5,000 per violation. In addition, violators will be charged for the actual expense of removal of the sign with a minimum charge of $50 per sign, plus associated costs, except where the Alaska Superior Court has limited enforcement for certain signs located on private property meeting the criteria in the November 13, 2018 Stipulated Final Order and Judgment.
- Can I recover an impounded sign from DOT&PF?
Items impounded by DOT&PF may be held in storage for a period of up to 30 days. DOT&PF is not responsible for damage during removal, transport, or storage. Under 17 AAC 20.012 (c) and 17 AAC 20.013 (d), owners may claim the signs by paying all fees and costs associated with removal. Items in storage are destroyed after 30 days.
Visit DOT&PF’s Right-of-Way site for more resources regarding the State’s public right of ways.