Iowa Road Signs

FAQs - Destination Signs on Interstate and Freeway Highways



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What destinations can be shown on Destination Signs?

The types of destinations that qualify for signs are identified in the Department's signing policies. Following are the types of destinations that can be shown on the Destination Signs:
-Incorporated communities; -Recreational areas; -Historic sites or facilities; -Tourist attractions; -Colleges and universities; -Public, non-profit cultural facilities; -Regional airports, bus terminals, and ground transportation centers; -State or Federal medical facilities; -National Guard units

What criteria must be met to be eligible for Destination Signs?

The criteria depends on the type of destination, the criteria as established in the Iowa DOT policies is listed below.

At interchanges with marked primary interstate routes, the county seat community in each direction shall be shown on the Destination Sign unless there is an intermediate incorporated community of 1,000 or more population on the route between the interchange and the county seat. In this case, the intermediate community shall be shown. If a county seat or an incorporated community of 1,000 or more population does not exist on the route, other incorporated communities of lesser population may be shown. In all cases, the community must be on or within 1 mile of the intersected route. If two qualifying destinations do not exist, other supplemental destinations meeting the requirements may be shown.

At interchanges with county routes or unmarked primary routes, the first incorporated community or qualifying Supplemental Destination directly served by or within 1 mile of the route shall be shown for each direction.

Incorporated communities that would meet the criteria for the Advance Guide and Exit Destination Signs but were omitted because other communities had higher priorities or larger populations may be shown.

Recreational areas that are open to the public, generate significant traffic volumes, are located within 30 miles of the interchange, and have at least 15,000 visitors annually.

Historic sites or facilities or other tourist attractions that have a regional or national significance, are open to the public, generate significant traffic volumes, are located within 30 miles of the interchange, and have at least 15,000 visitors annually.

Colleges and universities that are accredited, have an enrollment of 500 or more students (at that location), and are located within 15 miles of the interchange.

Public non-profit cultural facilities such as auditoriums, coliseums, stadiums, arenas, fairgrounds, etc. that generate significant traffic volumes and are located within 10 miles of the interchange. The facility shall have a seating capacity of at least 5000, have regularly scheduled events 10 months per year, and have an annual attendance of 200,000 or more.

Regional airports, bus terminals and ground transportation centers that generate significant traffic volumes consisting of a substantial number of individuals residing more than 50 miles from the facility.

Medical facilities of a regional nature which are operated by state or federal organizations and which are used or visited by a substantial number of individuals residing more than 50 miles from the facility.

National Guard units that are staffed by 500 or more personnel and are located within 15 miles of the interchange.

To qualify for Supplemental Destination Signing under any of the above criteria, the community or facility must be on or within 1 mile of the intersected route. If more than 2 communities or facilities qualify under this section, the closest, regardless of size or significance, shall be shown.

To qualify for Destination Signing, historical sites, tourist attractions and public non-profit cultural facilities shall be in operation 8 hours per day between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., 6 days per week, year round. For those attractions that are seasonal by nature, operations may be suspended during certain parts of the year.

How do you decide which cities are shown on the Destination Signs?

At interchanges with marked primary interstate routes, the county seat community in each direction is shown on the destination sign unless there is an intermediate incorporated community of 1,000 or more population on the route between the interchange and the county seat. In this case, the intermediated incorporated community is shown. If a county seat or an incorporated community of 1,000 or more population does not exist on the route, other incorporated communities of lesser population may be shown. In all cases, the community must be on or within 1 mile of the intersected route.

At interchanges with county routes or unmarked primary routes, the first incorporated community directly served by or within 1 mile of the route is shown for each direction.

If more that 2 communities qualify, the closest, regardless of size, is shown.

How close does the destination have to be to the interchange?

The distance depends on the type of destination and is listed in the answer to question #2.

Is there a limit to the number of destinations that can be signed?

Yes. The standards included in the MUTCD allow for two destinations on each Destination Sign. Up to two Destination Signs can be installed at each interchange for a total of four destinations. However, not every interchange will have space for two Destination Signs. At some interchanges there may only be room for one Destination Sign, so only two destinations would be signed.

The Destination Sign furthest from the interchange is the Advance Guide Sign and may have up to two destinations shown. The next destination sign, if used, is the Supplemental Destination Sign and it too can have two destinations. The Destination Sign located at the exit ramp is the Exit Destination Sign and will show the same destinations as the Advance Guide Sign.

Why are some of the Destination Signs green and others brown?

The color of the sign is based on the type of destination listed on the sign. Brown is used for cultural and recreational destinations. Green is used for all other destinations. Blue is used or information signs related to motorist services (gas, food, lodging, camping, rest areas, etc.).

How are the exit numbers determined?

The exit number is the same as the nearest mile marker south or west of the interchange. Also, the exit number sign panel is located on top of the Advance Destination Sign and the Exit Destination Sign. If it is located on the right-hand side of the sign this indicates a right exit, if it is on the left-hand side of the sign this indicates the exit is on the left.

How do I request a Destination Sign?

Please send a written request to the appropriate Iowa DOT district office. Include in your written request a description of the sign message you are requesting, information on the destination, and the location where you would like the sign installed.


FAQs - Destination Signs on Primary Highways other than freeway

For Destination Signs there are two categories of primary highways--interstate and intrastate. Primary INTERSTATE highways are roadways that keep their route number designation after they cross the state line. A primary INTRASTATE highway is one that has its entire length within the state.

Select a question below to reveal the answer.

What destinations can be shown on Destination Signs?

The types of destinations that qualify for signs are identified in the Department's signing policies. Following are the types of destinations that can be shown on the Destination Signs:
- Communities; - Recreational areas; - Publicly maintained park; - Historic sites or facilities; - Tourist attractions; - Colleges and universities; - Public, non-profit cultural facilities; - Airports, bus terminals, and ground transportation centers; - National Guard units; - Organized off-highway camps

What criteria must be met to be eligible for Destination Signs?

The criteria depends on the type of destination, the criteria as established in the Iowa DOT policies is listed below.

A destination shown on a Destination Sign shall be reached by following the intersecting road and not be located beyond the next primary highway.

The communities shown on the Destination Signs depend on the type of highway being intersected. At the intersection of two primary interstate routes, the next county seat is shown. If a community of 1000 population or more is closer than the county seat, it is shown on the sign. If the intersecting road is a primary intrastate route, then the population criteria is reduced to 300.

Recreational areas and parks must be open to the public, have a public restroom, approved drinking water supply, and adequate parking. Additional criteria must be met for signing of county conservation areas as required by Iowa Administrative Rule 761-131.8(321)--this link takes you to Iowa Administrative Rule 761-131. Scroll down the page until you find 131.8(321), "Erection of signs for county conservation parks."

Historic sites or facilities must meet criteria established by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Historic Division. The significant activity at the property is to interpret events, persons, or architecture important in history, the connections of which have been verified through background research and documentation. Interpretation to the public is presented on-site through exhibits, display techniques, or by attendant personnel. The property appears much as it did during the time of its historical importance. The site is open to the public frequently, at regularly scheduled and posted times. Commercial activity is a supplement to, rather than the purpose of, the site. The site is in an acceptable condition of maintenance and repair. The site should also provide sufficient parking to accommodate the expected number of visitors and visitor traffic should justify the cost of sign installation. The site should be easily accessible (ADA accessible) to the public with public restrooms. Admission should be free or nominal.

Colleges and universities that are accredited, have an enrollment of 500 or more students (at that location).

Public non-profit cultural facilities such as auditoriums, coliseums, stadiums, arenas, fairgrounds, etc. that generate significant traffic volumes may be signed. The facility shall have regularly scheduled events 10 months per year.

Airports with commercial or charter service may be signed.

Medical facilities of a regional nature which are operated by state or federal organizations and which are used or visited by a substantial number of individuals residing more than 50 miles from the facility.

National Guard units that are located on the intersecting road may be signed.

The organized off-highway camps must be permanent and operated by recognized and established civic, religious, and nonprofit charitable organizations. The organization is responsible for the cost to purchase, install and maintain the signs.

How close does the destination have to be to the intersection?

The destination must be one reached by following either the secondary road or the primary highway and cannot be located beyond the next primary highway.

Is there a limit to the number of destinations that can be signed?

Yes. The standards included in the MUTCD limit the principal legend to three lines. The legend on the signs must be kept to a minimum to be legible at a glance during the few moments that a driver can turn his eyes from the road. The number of Destination Signs located at the intersection is limited by the amount of space available for these signs. The Destination Signs must be located along with all the other signing required at the intersection.

Why are some of the Destination Signs green and others brown?

The color of the sign is based on the type of destination listed on the sign. Brown is used for cultural and recreational destinations. Green is used for all other destinations. Blue is used for information signs related to motorist services.

How do I request a Destination Sign?

Please send a written request to the appropriate Iowa DOT District Office. Include in your request a description of the sign message you are requesting, information on the destination, and the location where you would like the sign installed.