Outdoor advertising devices/signs are regulated by state laws and regulations when placed in areas visible to the primary highway system. The Iowa DOT is responsible for surveillance, control, and the permitting of outdoor advertising signs and is ready to assist in ensuring that all placements are legal. This responsibility was created in 1972 when the Iowa legislature passed Iowa Code 306C – a law that was intended to reduce the number of advertising signs in rural and residential areas, and to avoid risking federal penalties on highway funding. The federal penalties for inaction stem from the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, which conditions ten percent of the annual federal-aid highway apportionment on compliance.
Outdoor advertising signs are limited to commercial/industrial areas, and are prohibited along Iowa’s designated scenic byways. You may view a list of these byways. Outdoor advertising signs are also prohibited from being placed within the public right-of-way. For assistance on determining whether your proposed location is within the public right-of-way, contact your local district staff. For a summary of requirements, see our Guide to Outdoor Advertising Sign Requirements for U.S. & Iowa
or Guide to Outdoor Advertising Sign Requirements for Interstate Highways.
The regulations pertaining to outdoor advertising devices may not be applicable to all signs. Signs which exist without the exchange of remuneration (i.e., signs installed by a business for the business on the property, and signs erected by a resident to express an opinion) may be exempt. For guidance on whether your sign will be subject to the outdoor advertising regulations, consult with DOT staff.
If you have any questions regarding advertising signs, please contact Iowa DOT's agent Brent Christian at 515-239-1673.