Outdoor advertising signs


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's primary responsibility is to develop, maintain, and operate a state trunk highway system designed to move traffic from one destination to another in a safe, efficient, and expeditious manner. Regulating signs, both on and off highway right-of-way, is an important part of this responsibility.

WisDOT's responsibility for the safety of the traveling public doesn’t simply begin and end with the paved roadway. In accordance with the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, along with other state and federal laws, WisDOT is required to regulate outdoor advertising signs in private land, located adjacent to the interstate, federal-aid primary highways, National Highway System, and MAP-21 routes as a condition of receiving its full share of federal funds. These laws seek to balance the interests of providing travelers with information and promoting commerce, while maintaining public safety and preserving the scenic and natural beauty of Wisconsin.

Outdoor advertising includes, and is not limited to the following off-property signs:

Most local authorities (counties and municipalities) also have regulations or ordinances regarding signage in their jurisdiction. It is the sign owner’s responsibility to follow local laws. Approval of a sign application from the state does not exempt the applicant from any local ordinances, or guarantee approval from the local authority having jurisdiction. Likewise, local approval does not guarantee or exempt approval from the state. Where state and local regulations differ, the more restrictive requirements govern.

On-property signs

On-property (or on-premises) signs advertise for a business that is conducted on the property. These signs are allowed and do not require a state permit so long as certain requirements are met. Visit the On-property signs webpage for more information.

Outdoor advertising laws

For more information

Contact the WisDOT Region Outdoor Advertising Signing Contact.