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U.S. Department of Transportation
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Subject: INFORMATION: Safety Issues Related to Use of
Acknowledgement and Advertising Signs on Toll Facilities
February 28, 2007
From: /original signed by/
Jeffrey F. Paniati
Associate Administrator for Operations

/original signed by/
Jeffrey A. Lindley
Associate Administrator for Safety
In Reply Refer To:
To: Division Administrators
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Today's challenge of building, operating and maintaining the necessary infrastructure to support our Nation's transportation needs is immense. Agencies are looking for innovative ways to raise revenue, to help meet these growing needs. One such opportunity being pursued, particularly with toll authorities, is the use of sponsorship programs.

Sponsorship programs allow a company to sponsor an element of an Agency's operation (e.g. maintenance or beautification programs) through services or payment. In return for the company's services or payment, the company is recognized through acknowledgement signs. The use of acknowledgement signs in recognition of services received began with adopt-a-highway litter removal programs, but has grown in concept to include other highway-related services. The FHWA's policy on the use of acknowledgement signs, titled Optional Use of Acknowledgement Signs on Highway Rights of Way, and issued August 10, 2005 (attached), provides the specific applications for acknowledgement signs. The Policy also distinguishes the use of acknowledgement signs from advertising signs, and makes clear that the safe and orderly movement of traffic cannot be compromised with the use of these signs.

A number of toll authorities have been aggressive in advancing sponsorship programs as an opportunity to raise revenue for highway-related needs. As an example, one turnpike commission recently issued a request for proposals seeking companies to participate as sponsors in their new system-wide branding and sponsorship program. Under this program, companies have the opportunity to purchase the rights to sponsor three major inventory elements: toll plazas, first responder vehicles, and emergency communication systems. The commission indicates in its package that highway signage in this program is subject to applicable Federal and State laws, including the August 2005 FHWA Policy.

Of the major highway-related services that may be candidates for the acknowledgement sign program, among the most complex is the operation of a toll plaza. The toll plaza area represents a complex operation that each driver must navigate with extreme caution, and without distraction. Recent recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board, and the ongoing study of toll plaza safety required by Section 1403 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), highlight the importance of worker and driver safety in this critical area.

Safety is, in fact, the overriding issue when there is any doubt whether an acknowledgement sign is appropriate. The August 2005 Policy notes that acknowledgement signs may not be used "at key decision points where a driver's attention is more appropriately focused on traffic control devices, roadway geometry, or traffic conditions." Toll plazas and their entrance and exit areas are environments where all of these factors exist. The driver is being directed by a number of traffic control devices (including regulatory signs), roadway geometry requires careful maneuvering by the driver, and traffic conditions are typically such that a mix of vehicles and trucks are entering and exiting under high volumes. Thus, the toll plaza and its entrance and exit areas are generally not acceptable areas for the application of acknowledgement signs. Advertisement signs, which are also noted in the August 2005 Policy and distinguished from Acknowledgement signs, are generally not allowed for use on highway right-of-way.

Funding challenges are significant for the transportation industry, and innovative solutions for generating new revenue sources are encouraged. However, these solutions must consider safety and operational impacts first and foremost. Acknowledgement signs and advertising signs are options for revenue generation, but their use must be governed by federal policies.

Please share this information with toll authorities in your State, and take appropriate steps to assure these agencies are compliant with Federal policies. For more information or questions regarding the FHWA's position on these issues, contact Messrs. Hari Kalla, Office of Transportation Operations, at (202) 366-5915 or John Baxter, Office of Safety, at (202) 366-9198.

Attachment: Optional Use of Acknowledgement Signs on Highway Rights of Way

cc: International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association
     Associate Administrators
     Directors of Field Services
     Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers
     Resource Center Director