FHWA Blocks Commercialization of Signs on the Public Right of Way

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently rejected a request from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to display commercial logos on electronic message signs, confirming an earlier ruling by the agency not to allow advertising on highway signs.

The federal agency’s refusal to auction public traffic signs for commercial advertising was viewed as a positive sign by NATSO and other interstate-based businesses that oppose any weakening of the prohibition of commercial rest areas on the Interstate Highway System.  

In rejecting the request, FHWA said that public traffic signs are for public purposes, not commercial advertising and reinforces our position that commercial activity should not be permitted on the Interstate-right-of-way.  

TxDOT for years has pitched a proposal to sell corporate sponsorships on official Interstate traffic signs that would like the picture below. 


Such proposals require federal approval.  In June, FHWA notified Texas that it could not commercialize traffic signs because it conflicted with “applicable statues and regulations.” (click here).

Similarly in Pennsylvania, DOT declined a request from a motorist suggesting commercial ads on the back sides of official traffic signs.   

"All real property within the right-of-way boundaries must be 'devoted exclusively to public highway purposes,” the Department of Transportation responded in April (click here).

The broad coalition fighting commercial rest areas, which includes truckstops, restaurants, hotels, fuel retailers, convenience stores, the advertising community and a host of other businesses that serve Interstate travelers, continues to follow these battles closely.

Earlier this year, President Trump called for commercial rest areas in his budget proposal.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate voted 86-12 rejecting a proposal to lift the long-standing ban on commercial rest areas and marking a major victory for truckstops, travel centers, convenience stores, petroleum marketers, and restaurants.


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