As campaign season ramps up, so do the number of calls about illegally placed signs.

The Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) has received so many calls the agency is hiring three part time employees to help with a sign removal sweep.

“We’re going to be collecting a lot of signs that have gotten into the right-of-way, especially intersections, bringing those to our yard and assessing fines,” said Spokesperson Shannon McCarthy.

Not only are all signs placed in the state right-of-way illegal but McCarthy said all signs even visible from a state road are prohibited, even if they’re on private property.

That stems from a 1998 vote to keep Alaska free from outdoor advertising like billboards. There’s also federal requirements for state infrastructure that come into play as well.

“When you have a federal aid highway like the Glenn or the Seward, because tax dollars go into upgrading and improving that road, the federal rule is any sign that can be visible from a federal aid highway are also illegal,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the sweep will focus on signs that cause hazards for drivers or obstruct line-of-sight.

“At an intersection, if you have a car that’s trying to go right on red, they may not see a pedestrian that’s trying to cross or it might block their view of a car that’s on coming,” McCarthy explained.

While signs on private land that are visible from a state road are illegal, McCarthy said they’ll only focus on removing signs from public land.

“Political speech is really important, it’s protected speech. So we have to be really careful how we balance that,” McCarthy said.

She said DOT sends out letters to candidates at the beginning of campaign season with information about the legal areas to place signs.

The property owner with an illegal sign or the people placing illegal signs are subject to a $50 fine per sign collected during the DOT sweep.

More information about state rights-of-ways and campaigns signs can be found here.

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