Montana Administrative Register Notice 18-144 No. 21   11/14/2013    
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In the matter of the adoption of New Rule I and the amendment of ARM 18.6.202 and 18.6.247 pertaining to community welcome to signs









TO: All Concerned Persons


1. On December 13, 2013, the Department of Transportation proposes to adopt and amend the above-stated rules.


2. The Department of Transportation will make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities who wish to participate in this rulemaking process or need an alternative accessible format of this notice. If you require an accommodation, contact Department of Transportation no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 5, 2013 to advise us of the nature of the accommodation that you need. Please contact Patrick J. Hurley, Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 201001, Helena, Montana, 59620-1001; telephone (406) 444-6068; fax (406) 444-7254; TTY Service (406) 444-7696 or (800) 335-7592; or e-mail phurley@mt.gov.


3. The rule as proposed to be adopted provides as follows:


NEW RULE I  COMMUNITY WELCOME TO SIGNS (1)  A community, county, or sovereign nation may erect welcome to signs within its territorial jurisdiction or zoning jurisdiction, as long as the community, county, or sovereign nation exercises some form of governmental authority over the area upon which the sign is located (e.g., city limits).  Welcome to signs must not be erected by other types of governmental entities including states or tourist area regions.

(2)  Qualifying communities, counties, or sovereign nations may develop their own welcome to sign designs, and may also use their own pictographs and a brief jurisdiction-wide program slogan, providing the sign design complies with all provisions of this rule, and has been approved by the department before the sign is granted a permit or erected.

(3)  Welcome to signs must not contain any form of commercial advertising, including any promotion of commercial products or services through slogans and information on where to obtain the products and services. Welcome to signs must not identify any private or public organizations or affiliations.

(4) Qualifying welcome to sign applicants must first thoroughly explore all options to erect the sign off public right-of-way, and may request placement within the right-of-way only as the option of last resort.

(5)  Welcome to signs must not be placed along interstate routes.

(6)  Welcome to signs may only be placed in qualifying locations which meet all the following requirements:

(a)  within state-controlled right-of-way limits along controlled routes, except for interstate routes, upon verification by the sign owner that specific locations outside the right-of-way have been considered, but were unavailable;

(b)  on private or other government-owned property adjacent to controlled routes, with permission of the landowner;

(c)  outside of key decision points where a driver's attention is more appropriately focused on traffic control devices, roadway geometry, or traffic conditions;

(d)  within five miles of a community for community signs, or within five miles of a county line for county signs, with no more than one welcome to sign in each direction;

(e)  more than 500 feet from an intersection, intersecting roadway, junction, property driveway, or connecting roadway with approaching or merging traffic in rural areas, and more than140 feet from an intersection, intersecting roadway, junction, property driveway, or connecting roadway with approaching or merging traffic in cities or towns;

(f) outside an intersection sight triangle;

(g)  more than 500 feet from public parks, public forests, public playgrounds, or designated scenic areas which are adjacent to the controlled route, unless the sign is in an incorporated area;

(h)  within an area where adequate spacing is available between the welcome to sign and other higher priority signs including all traffic control devices, where adequate space is defined as:

(i)  150 feet on roadways with speed limits of less than 30 mph;

(ii)  200 feet on roadways with speed limits of 30 to 45 mph; and

(iii)  500 feet on roadways with speed limits greater than 45 mph;

(i)  in a position where they would not obscure the road users' view of other traffic control devices; and

(j)  ten feet or more outside the highway clear zone, unless prior department approval for an exemption is given.

(7)  Welcome to signs must meet all of the following design standards:

(a)  the maximum area of the welcome to sign shall not exceed 150 square feet;

(b)  the height above ground level shall not exceed 30 feet in height;

(c)  lettering height must be at least four inches in height;

(d)  the sign must not be attached to any other sign, sign assembly, or other traffic control device, including supports or any sign structures;

(e)  the sign must not be affixed to fences, power poles, traffic signal poles or boxes, street lights, trees, or painted, or drawn upon rocks, or other natural features;

(f)  the sign must not contain any messages, lights, symbols, or trademarks that resemble any official traffic control devices;

(g)  the sign must not contain any internal illumination, light-emitted diodes (LED), luminous tubing, fiber optics, luminescent panels, or other flashing, moving, or animated features;

(h)  the sign may be lighted by external spot lights if the lights are effectively shielded to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled way of the highway, or are of such low intensity as to not cause glare, or to impair the vision of the driver of any motor vehicle, or to otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle; and

(i)  the sign must not distract from official traffic control messages such as regulatory, warning, or guidance messages.

(8) An outdoor advertising permit must be obtained for each welcome to sign, accompanied by a nonrefundable inspection fee.  There is no initial permit fee or renewal fee for welcome to signs.

(9) An encroachment permit must be obtained from the department for each welcome to sign which will be located within the right-of-way limits of any controlled route. An encroachment permit is not required for welcome to signs which will be located on private or government-owned properties adjacent to the controlled route, which location is outside the state-controlled right-of-way limits.

(10) Welcome to signs must be initially installed and later maintained by the sign owner, at the sign owner's sole expense, by meeting all department rules for sign repair and maintenance. 

(11)  Sign owners who are granted an encroachment permit for a welcome to sign to be erected in state-controlled right-of-way must meet all department procedures for work within the right-of-way, including traffic control plans, if required by the department, and any other safety procedures required by the department. Welcome to sign owners must contact the department and receive department approval before conducting any work within state-controlled right-of-way limits.

(12)  This rule applies to new and modified welcome to sign installations, and does not apply to welcome to signs which were erected by any community, county, or sovereign nation before the effective date of this rule, except previously erected welcome to signs must meet all maintenance requirements and procedures for work within the right-of-way under this rule.

(13)  Any welcome to sign which is proposed for upgrade or structural modification beyond routine maintenance must obtain permits and meet all requirements of this rule.

(14)  If a highway construction or reconstruction project, or placement of a newly installed higher-priority traffic control device, such as a higher-priority sign, a highway traffic signal, or a temporary traffic control device, as solely determined by the department, conflicts with an existing welcome to sign, the welcome to sign must be relocated, covered, or removed by the sign owner, at the department's directive.


AUTH:  61-8-203, 75-15-121, MCA

IMP:  61-8-203, 75-15-111, 75-15-113, MCA


REASON:  The proposed new rule is necessary to set standards which may allow "welcome to" signs to be placed along stated-controlled routes, including within right-of-way limits, under strict location, and design standards, to promote community recognition in the state. FHWA has previously recognized a distinction between signing intended as advertising, which is not allowed in the right-of-way, and signing intended as acknowledgement, which may be allowed in the right-of-way under intended purposes of community recognition. The proposed new rule will impose requirements of obtaining both outdoor advertising and encroachment permits from the department, and other restrictions to allow safe and orderly movement of traffic, which must not be compromised, with the use of community or county recognition welcome to signs. The proposed new rule will require good, basic engineering practices to be followed, such as simplifying sign message content, using reasonable sign sizes, and minimizing driver distraction.


4. The rules as proposed to be amended provide as follows, new matter underlined, deleted matter interlined:


            18.6.202 DEFINITIONS (1) through (6) remain the same.

            (7) "Clear zone" means the total roadside border area, starting at the edge of the traveled way, that is available for an errant driver to stop or regain control of a vehicle. The area might consist of a shoulder, a recoverable slope, or a nonrecoverable, traversable slope with a clear run-out area at its toe.

            (7) through (32) remain the same but are renumbered (8) through (33).

            (33) (34)  "Official signs and notices" means signs and notices erected and maintained by public officers or public agencies within their territorial or zoning jurisdiction and pursuant to and in accordance with direction or authorization contained in federal, state, or local law, for the purposes of carrying out an official duty or responsibility. Historical markers, welcome to, and public utility signs authorized by state law and erected by state or local government agencies may be considered official signs.

            (34) through (37) remain the same but are renumbered (35) through (38).

            (39) "Pictograph" means a pictorial representation used to identify a governmental jurisdiction or an area of jurisdiction.

            (38) through (47) remain the same but are renumbered (40) through (49).


AUTH:  75-15-121, MCA

IMP:  75-15-103, 75-15-111, 75-15-112, 75-15-113, 75-15-121, MCA


REASON:  The proposed amendments are necessary to add definitions of words or phrases used in proposed New Rule I. The proposed amendment to (34) will delete a reference to welcome to signs in the "official signs" definition, as welcome to signs will now be in a separate category of signs, and no longer be a part of the official signs definition.


18.6.247 OFFICIAL SIGNS (1) through (3) remain the same.

(4)  Local governments may erect, within the limits of their jurisdiction, official signs welcoming travelers and describing the services and attractions available, but official signs shall not contain any commercial advertising, nor advertise private business or brand names.

(5)  Not more than one official sign welcoming visitors or providing information about a community is allowed on each highway entering the community, from each direction of travel, subject to federal and state outdoor advertising control rules.

(6)  On interstate highways, official "welcome to" signs may be erected within five miles of a community.  Not more than one "welcome to" sign in each direction is allowed.

(7) through (14) remain the same but are renumbered (4) through (11).


AUTH:  75-15-121, MCA

IMP:  75-15-111, 75-15-113, MCA


REASON: The proposed amendment is necessary to delete the subsections which formerly addressed welcome to signs as part of the official signs category.  Under New Rule I, welcome to signs will be a separate category of signs, with separate requirements imposed, thus any reference to welcome to signs must be removed from ARM 18.6.247 on official signs.


5. Concerned persons may submit their data, views, or arguments concerning the proposed actions in writing to:  Patrick J. Hurley, Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 201001, Helena, Montana, 59620-1001; telephone (406) 444-6068; fax (406) 444-7254; or e-mail phurley@mt.gov, and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m., December 12, 2013.


6. If persons who are directly affected by the proposed actions wish to express their data, views, or arguments orally or in writing at a public hearing, they must make written request for a hearing and submit this request along with any written comments to Patrick J. Hurley at the above address no later than 5:00 p.m., December 12, 2013.


7. If the agency receives requests for a public hearing on the proposed action from either 10 percent or 25, whichever is less, of the persons directly affected by the proposed action; from the appropriate administrative rule review committee of the Legislature; from a governmental subdivision or agency; or from an association having not less than 25 members who will be directly affected, a hearing will be held at a later date. Notice of the hearing will be published in the Montana Administrative Register.  Ten percent of those directly affected has been determined to be 18 persons based on 129 incorporated cities and 56 counties within the state.


8. The department maintains a list of interested persons who wish to receive notices of rulemaking actions proposed by this agency.  Persons who wish to have their name added to the list shall make a written request that includes the name, e-mail, and mailing address of the person to receive notices and specifies for which program the person wishes to receive notices. Notices will be sent by e-mail unless a mailing preference is noted in the request.  Such written request may be mailed or delivered to the contact person in 5 above or may be made by completing a request form at any rules hearing held by the department.


9. An electronic copy of this proposal notice is available through the Secretary of State's web site at http://sos.mt.gov/ARM/Register.  The Secretary of State strives to make the electronic copy of this notice conform to the official version of the notice, as printed in the Montana Administrative Register, but advises all concerned persons that in the event of a discrepancy between the official printed text of the notice and the electronic version of the notice, only the official printed text will be considered.  In addition, although the Secretary of State works to keep its web site accessible at all times, concerned persons should be aware that the web site may be unavailable during some periods, due to system maintenance or technical problems.


10. The bill sponsor contact requirements of 2-4-302, MCA do not apply.


11. With regard to the requirements of 2-4-111, MCA, the department has determined that the adoption and amendment of the above-referenced rules will not significantly and directly impact small businesses because welcome to sign requirements only apply to communities or sovereign nations.




/s/ Carol Grell Morris                                    /s/ Michael T. Tooley                                   

Carol Grell Morris                                         Michael T. Tooley

Rule Reviewer                                              Director

                                                                   Department of Transportation


Certified to the Secretary of State November 4, 2013.



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