Outdoor Advertising

May I place a sign within State highway rights of way or on State property?

State property and rights of way are reserved solely for official traffic control signs and devices. Advertising signs are not permitted in State rights of way. Illegal signs can be hazardous to motorists.

Maryland law, §8-605​, authorizes the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) to remove unauthorized signage placed on state highway right of way. During routine maintenance activities, such as litter pick up and mowing, SHA maintenance forces will collect and destroy of unauthorized signage identified in state right of way and dispose of the signs. The law also authorizes local governments to collect and dispose of unauthorized signage within the state right of way. If the sign is a commercial sign, the local government may wish to collect a civil penalty not exceeding $25 per commercial sign.  

Why is a Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) sign permit required?

Permits allow MDOT SHA to track the location, spacing, and maintenance of signs. Tracking the signs ensures compliance with all federal/State regulations, proper installation and maintenance, and removal if they become illegal (because of deterioration, improper tags, etc.).

May I place a sign on my own property without an MDOT SHA permit?

Yes; these signs are considered on-premise outdoor advertising signs.  However, they can only advertise activities, services, or products available on the property where the sign is located. For example, signs advertising a property for sale or lease can be located on the site advertised.

The sign must meet certain criteria. The sign must:

  1. be placed within 100 feet of the business activity (such as the edge of building or parking lot); and
  2. cannot encroach or impact a State right of way or property.

What is an off-premise outdoor advertising sign?

Off-premise outdoor advertising signs advertise a service or product that is not sold or offered on the property with the sign. Off-premise outdoor advertising signs also require an MDOT SHA sign permit and must meet requirements related to size, lighting, zoning, and spacing. The signs must also conform to local government sign code regulations.

Are off-premise outdoor advertising signs allowed along designated Scenic Byways?

No. Off-premise outdoor advertising signs are prohibited allow scenic byways. Signs erected prior to October 2011 are considered “non-conforming” and cannot be upgraded or replaced.

Do I also need a permit from the county or municipality?

Yes. You need to contact your local government office about its sign permit requirements. Some counties do not allow new off-premise outdoor advertising signs. The signs must conform to local government sign code regulations.

What is the cost of an MDOT SHA sign permit?

Sign permit costs are based on the size of the sign and number of advertising faces.  Current fees are $1 per advertising face. All sign permits must be renewed annually by April 30th. Out-of-state applicants must obtain a $1,000 Surety Bond before sign permits are issued. The numbered MDOT SHA metal permit tag must always be displayed on the sign and be visible from the highway.

How long does it take to get a MDOT SHA sign permit?

About two weeks.

A sign tag permit application (PDF, 155kb) requires the signature of the applicant, property owner, and local zoning board.  Applications must include a detailed site plan showing all property lines, distance from the State’s right of way, the location of the sign on the property, the State route number, intersecting roadways, and distances from other sign(s) on the property.

Once these requirements are met, MDOT SHA reviews the application with a review time of approximately two weeks.

The applicant is responsible for securing all necessary approvals.

May I use flashing arrows on my sign on a State highway?

No.Flashing lights can be a hazard to motorists.

Local governments may also have ordinances regarding signs, particularly heavily illuminated signs.

May I erect an off-premise outdoor advertising sign next to the interstate highway?

No. State laws prohibit off-premise outdoor advertising signs along interstates and other expressways.

What about the advertising signs along other State highways?

Any off-premise outdoor advertising sign erected along a state highway must show an MDOT SHA sign tag permit.

Will I receive a permanent MDOT SHA sign tag permit for my sign?

Yes - a numbered MDOT SHA aluminum permit tag will be issued to you and must be securely attached to the sign within 10 days. The sign permit tag must always be displayed on the sign and visible from the highway . Replacement tags are available. The name and address of the sign owner must also be displayed on the sign structure.

I own an outdoor advertising business. Do I need a license to perform business in the State of Maryland?

Those who rent, maintain, or erect outdoor advertising signs along State highways must secure an annual MDOT SHA Outdoor Advertising License. The license is free, but you must fill out an MDOT SHA license application form. Out of State applicants must also obtain a $1,000 Surety Bond before the license is issued.

Can I upgrade or enhance my conforming (conforming to present laws) outdoor advertising sign?

Yes, but you must first contact MDOT SHA and complete a new sign permit application. Signs erected along designated Scenic Byway cannot be upgraded or enhanced in anyway.

Can I upgrade my non-conforming sign?

Reasonable maintenance and repair of non-conforming signs is permissible. However, they cannot be enlarged, rebuilt, relocated, or enhanced in anyway. A sign is classified as non-conforming when it fails to conform to present laws and regulations.

MDOT SHA Statewide Outdoor Advertising Control Program

While driving along Maryland interstates and other highways you will notice off-premise outdoor advertising signs erected on private property. For many, these signs serve as a source of information for the traveling public, advertising products and services from the business community. All these signs are regulated and permitted by MDOT SHA. The regulation of these signs helps MDOT SHA manage the outdoor advertising signs, avoid utility lines and waterways, maintain adequate sight distance, and promote the safety and beauty of Maryland’s roads.

The State of Maryland must adhere to regulations and policies outlined by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), Manual of Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and the Annotated Code of Maryland. These regulations govern routes maintained by MDOT SHA and the Maryland Transportation Authority. MDOT SHA maintains all numbered routes in conjunction with the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), which manages eight toll facilities, including Interstate 95 north of Baltimore to the Delaware State line and the Intercounty Connector (ICC).

Off-premise outdoor advertising signs must conform to all federal/State laws and be approved by local government offices.

To learn more about the outdoor advertising regulations, obtain an outdoor advertising sign permit or license, receive information, or pay an invoice, contact the MDOT SHA Office of Real Estate

Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration
Office of Real Estate
707 North Calvert Street – Mail Stop M201
Baltimore, MD 21202
Toll- Free 1-888-204-4245