660 Feet?


I am very confused on the 660 ft limit when it comes to billboards being along highways. When I drive down I75, there are plenty of telephone pole billboards set back to that distance, but as I come into Toledo along either 475 or 75, there are now monopoles barely 100 feet from the freeway. I don’t understand this? Could you clarify these rules for me?


I may be wrong on this, but here goes:

The Highway Beautification Act only regulates billboards within 660 feet of the highway right of way. It also says you can only have billboards in areas zoned commercial or industrial. So say you have a piece of farm land zoned agricultural, residential, etc. And say your local municipality has very lax zoning laws, or this is in 1975 or so before municipalities really clamped down on billboards. If you set the billboard more than 660’ away from the highway, it does not fall under the HBA requirements. But it needs to be gigantic so drivers can see it from the highway since it’s so far away. Hence the giant phone pole signs far away from the highway. I think most of them were built 25+ years ago.

I’ve noticed that CBS owns a lot of these signs in Ohio and New York. They are often falling-down pieces of junk. One huge windstorm and they’re done. Some are even painted the old-school way. Even with their large size some are of questionable value; the driver might miss it unless they know it’s there.


George nailed it.

These type of signs are all over the Midwest. Most are vacant or falling down because they are just too far off the road to have much impact. The exception is when there is a curve in the road and they have “head on” visibility – but that’s pretty rare. Inside major cities (yes, there are some near city centers that were grandfathered in decades ago) they rent O.K. despite questionable visibility. But out in the countryside, where most of them exist, a small sign near the road has just as much visibility and a lot lower cost. As the cost to operate these monsters is so high (many are 20’ x 60’ +), unless they can garner significant rent, they lose money and are ultimately abandoned. As George said, it only takes one good storm to knock the whole thing – or half the thing – down.


I see. So the typical monopoles I see within the city along I75 are exempt because they are on commercial or industrial zoned land… and can be set much closer? Because there are some that cant be more than 80 feet from the interstate.


That’s correct. But they are not “exempt”. They have to have a valid state and/or city permit to be within the 660’ envelope. All states and cities have different criteria for what’s legal, so you have to study the ordinances to determine what the criteria are.