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Frequently Asked Questions — FHWA Order 5160.1A—Policy on Sponsorship Acknowledgment and Agreements within the Highway Right-of-Way

Introduction

The following frequently-asked questions are provided to supplement the directive, FHWA Order 5160.1A—Policy on Sponsorship Acknowledgment and Agreements within the Highway Right-of-Way. Please refer to the directive for specific details.

  1. Does this directive apply to toll roads that have been grandfathered into the Interstate Highway System?
  2. What type of products can be provided as a form of sponsorship?
  3. Does the recommendation for each agency to have a policy on sponsorship agreements mean a broad policy for any type of sponsorship, or separate policies for each different type of service to be sponsored?
  4. Can an entity sponsor an individual traffic control device, such as a sign or traffic signal, and have the sponsorship acknowledged with an acknowledgment plaque?
  5. Can an entity sponsor a specific message displayed on a traffic control device, such as travel time information?
  6. Can the acknowledgment plaque be 1/3 the area of the primary sign even if it exceeds 24 square feet?
  7. I am using an oversized sign in accordance with the MUTCD. Is this the size of sign that I use to determine the size of the acknowledgment plaque?
  8. A sponsor has purchased "naming rights" to a highway. Can we install a guide sign stating that the highway is the "[Sponsor Name] Highway"?
  9. A sponsor has developed a special business logo for acknowledgment signs. Can this special logo be used on the acknowledgment signs?
  10. A sponsor has requested that acknowledgment signs display an image of one of its products, in lieu of its business name or logo. Can a product, in place of or in addition to the sponsor name, be displayed on an acknowledgment sign or plaque?
  11. A sponsor has proposed to feature an image of its spokesperson on acknowledgment signs. Is this allowed?
  12. Can a slogan, such as "Passion for Excellence" or "Proud Sponsor," be included on the acknowledgment sign or plaque?
  13. A marketing firm has proposed procuring sponsorship of a "texting spot" to encourage drivers to enter a rest area to use their personal mobile telephones. This proposal includes displaying the message TEXTING SPOT on the rest area guide signs as well as on the Acknowledgment sign. Is this concept acceptable?
  14. Does the standard sponsorship agreement, rather than individual agreements with each sponsor, have to be approved by the FHWA Division Administrator?
  15. My sign announces the availability of a road user service. It does not contain information on how to access that service, such as radio frequency or telephone number. Is this considered a General Service sign below which an acknowledgment plaque can be mounted?
  16. Where within a rest area is advertising allowed?
  17. Can an advertising kiosk be installed within a rest area?
  18. Can a weigh station or similar facility be sponsored?

Frequently Asked Questions — FHWA Order 5160.1A—Policy on Sponsorship Acknowledgment and Agreements within the Highway Right-of-Way

  1. Q: Does this directive apply to toll roads that have been grandfathered into the Interstate Highway System?

A: This directive applies to all roads open to public travel.

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  1. Q: What type of products can be provided as a form of sponsorship?

A: The provision of products as sponsorship is only to the recipient agency. That is, the sponsor, in lieu of directly providing a highway-related service or monetary contribution toward a highway-related service, directly provides a product that is used in a highway-related service by the recipient agency.

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  1. Q: Does the recommendation for each agency to have a policy on sponsorship agreements mean a broad policy for any type of sponsorship, or separate policies for each different type of service to be sponsored?

A: The agency policy should cover all types of sponsorships and all services that can be sponsored. Additional information on the agency policy can be found in Section 2H.08 of the MUTCD and in the directive.

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  1. Q: Can an entity sponsor an individual traffic control device, such as a sign or traffic signal, and have the sponsorship acknowledged with an acknowledgment plaque?

A: A traffic control device itself is not considered a service under the definition of sponsorship. However, maintenance of traffic control devices is a highway-related service that can be sponsored. Maintenance or provision of traffic control devices may be acknowledged with an acknowledgment sign independently located in accordance with the provisions of the directive and the MUTCD.

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  1. Q: Can an entity sponsor a specific message displayed on a traffic control device, such as travel time information?

A: The display of travel time information is not considered a service as defined in the directive. However, the provision of the travel times or of the service that develops the data necessary to determine travel times is a highway-related service that can be sponsored and may be acknowledged with an acknowledgment sign independently located in accordance with the provisions of the directive and the MUTCD.

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  1. Q: Can the acknowledgment plaque be 1/3 the area of the primary sign even if it exceeds 24 square feet?

A: The maximum allowable area of an acknowledgment plaque is the lesser of (1) 24 square feet or (2) 1/3 the area of the General Service sign below which the plaque is mounted. Additional criteria apply when the General Service sign is oversized.

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  1. Q: I am using an oversized sign in accordance with the MUTCD. Is this the size of sign that I use to determine the size of the acknowledgment plaque?

A: The size of the acknowledgment plaque is determined by the minimum size of the General Service sign as specified in the MUTCD for that application or roadway classification (conventional road, expressway, or freeway). The maximum allowable area of an acknowledgment plaque is the lesser of (1) 24 square feet or (2) 1/3 the area of this sign size.

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  1. Q: A sponsor has purchased "naming rights" to a highway. Can we install a guide sign stating that the highway is the "[Sponsor Name] Highway"?

A: Sponsorship through so-called "naming rights" is considered a monetary contribution. Monetary contributions by a sponsoring entity may be acknowledged with an acknowledgment sign along the highway on which the sponsorship occurs. Directional signs or signs on connecting roadways may not be used to indicate that a highway has been unofficially named to acknowledge a sponsoring entity.

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  1. Q: A sponsor has developed a special business logo for acknowledgment signs. Can this special logo be used on the acknowledgment signs?

A: Sponsor logos must be the official primary trademarked logo that represents the sponsoring entity. Secondary or alternative logos—whether specifically developed for highway signs or other uses—shall not be displayed on acknowledgment signs or plaques.

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  1. Q: A sponsor has requested that acknowledgment signs display an image of one of its products, in lieu of its business name or logo. Can a product, in place of or in addition to the sponsor name, be displayed on an acknowledgment sign or plaque?

A: Acknowledgment signs must only display the name or officially trademarked logo of the sponsoring entity. Representations of products or services of the sponsor shall not be displayed on acknowledgment signs or plaques.

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  1. Q: A sponsor has proposed to feature an image of its spokesperson on acknowledgment signs. Is this allowed?

A: Acknowledgment signs must only display the name or officially trademarked logo of the sponsoring entity. Representations of personalities, mascots, or similar characters that might be identified with the sponsor shall not be displayed on acknowledgment signs or plaques.

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  1. Q: Can a slogan, such as "Passion for Excellence" or "Proud Sponsor," be included on the acknowledgment sign or plaque?

A: Slogans that mimic promotional advertising are not allowed to be displayed on acknowledgment signs or plaques. Slogans representing the sponsored activity or program, such as "Adopt-A-Highway," are the only slogan type messages allowed.

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  1. Q: A marketing firm has proposed procuring sponsorship of a "texting spot" to encourage drivers to enter a rest area to use their personal mobile telephones. This proposal includes displaying the message TEXTING SPOT on the rest area guide signs as well as on the Acknowledgment sign. Is this concept acceptable?

A: MAP-21 legislation allowed one Acknowledgment sign along the highway mainline to display the name or logo of the rest area sponsor. The purpose of the legislation was to help maintain and operate rest areas for the safety of the traveling public. A "texting spot" or similar concept is not a separate service or activity within the rest area that can be sponsored. Rather, it is simply a program name or slogan. If the State has adopted and is actively promoting a "Text Spot" or similar type of program to encourage the use of safety rest areas, then that particular phrase would constitute the program name as referenced in the MUTCD and the FHWA Order, similar to "Adopt-A-Highway." That phrase can then be displayed on the rest area Acknowledgment sign whose design complies with the provisions of the MUTCD and the Order. However, neither a program name nor slogan is allowed to be displayed on the rest area guide sign or other types of signs. Q12 contains additional information on the use of slogan-type messages.

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  1. Q: Does the standard sponsorship agreement, rather than individual agreements with each sponsor, have to be approved by the FHWA Division Administrator?

A: Each unique agreement with each sponsored service must be approved by the FHWA Division office.

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  1. Q: My sign announces the availability of a road user service. It does not contain information on how to access that service, such as radio frequency or telephone number. Is this considered a General Service sign below which an acknowledgment plaque can be mounted?

A: A General Service sign provides information on how to access a road user service. An assembly consisting of a sign that simply announces a service and an acknowledgment plaque below it fulfills the intent of and constitutes an acknowledgment sign. An advantage of allowing an acknowledgment plaque below a General Service sign is to avoid the need for two separate sign assemblies—one being the General Service sign that provides specific information on how to access that service; the other being an acknowledgment sign independently mounted at a separate location. The sign assembly described in the question appears to circumvent the intent of the policy.

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  1. Q: Where within a rest area is advertising allowed?

A: 23 U.S.C. § 111 was amended by MAP-21 Section 1539 to allow for limited commercial activities within a rest area. Among these activities are commercial advertising and media displays that are "exhibited solely within any facility constructed within the rest area; and not legible from the main traveled way." Consistent with the language of 23 CFR § 752.7(c), which established information centers and systems within safety rest areas, the language "any facility constructed in the rest area" in MAP-21 Section 1539 refers to the building and/or bulletin board or partial enclosure (sometimes colloquially referred to as a "kiosk") as provided in the referenced CFR provision. Other items, such as a parking space, sidewalk, pet area, bench, or picnic table, do not constitute a "facility" as defined in the CFR and cannot be used to display advertising. Further, a facility cannot be constructed for the sole purpose of commercial advertising. Rather, the purpose of existing or new facilities must be consistent with the intent of the CFR, which is for any facility to be part of an information system. Commercial advertising or media displays can then be a part of that information system.

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  1. Q: Can an advertising kiosk be installed within a rest area?

A: No. While commercial advertising or media displays may be exhibited within a facility constructed as part of a safety rest area information center or system, a structure cannot be installed for the sole purpose of exhibiting commercial advertising or media displays. Q16 contains additional information on the allowable locations for exhibiting commercial advertising or media displays within a rest area.

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  1. Q: Can a weigh station or similar facility be sponsored?

A: Yes. A highway-related service is eligible for sponsorship. However, any acknowledgment of such sponsorship must be with an Acknowledgment sign that complies with the provisions of the MUTCD and the directive. Because the sponsored activity is the weigh station, the Acknowledgment sign must be located within the weigh station facility and not on the highway mainline. The only type of roadside area for which an Acknowledgment sign can be located on the highway mainline is a rest area, in accordance with 23 U.S.C. § 111.

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