Select Office or Topic to see a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



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

State property and right of way is reserved for official traffic control signs or devices only. Advertising signs are not permitted in State right-of-way. Illegal signs can be a hazard to the traveling motorist.

Why is a MDOT SHA sign permit required?

Sign 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 subsequent removal if they become illegal (i.e. deterioration, improper tags, etc.)

May I place a sign on my own property without a 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 property for sale or lease can be located on the site advertised. 
It must also 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 State right-of-way or property.

What is an off-premise outdoor advertising sign?

Off-premise outdoor advertising signs advertise a service or product not sold or offered on the property where the sign is located. Off-premise outdoor advertising signs also require a MDOT SHA sign permit and must meet other 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 designated Scenic Byways. Signs erected prior to October 2011 are considered non-conforming and cannot upgraded or replaced.

Do I also need a permit from the county or municipality (town or city)?

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

What is the cost for a 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 and are due on April 30th annually.  Out of State applicants must obtain a $1,000.00 Surety Bond before sign permits are issued. The numbered MDOT SHA metal permit tag must be displayed on the sign at all times and visible from the highway.

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

Sign Tag permit application (PDF, 155kb) require 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, and location of the sign on the property, State route number, intersecting roadways, and distances from other sign(s) on the property.

Once these requirements are completed, MDOT SHA reviews the application with a review time of approximately two (2) weeks. The applicant is responsible for securing all necessary approvals.

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

No.  Local governments may also have ordinances regarding heavily illuminated signs. Flashing lights can also be a hazard to the traveling motorist.

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 or other expressways. 

What about the advertising signs along other State highways?

Any off premise outdoor advertising sign erected along a state highway, must have an MDOT SHA sign tag permit attached.

Do 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 be displayed on the sign and visible from the highway at all times. 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 renting, maintaining, or erecting 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 $1,000.00 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?

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

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 great source of information for the traveling public; such as advertising products and services from the business community. All of these signs are regulated and permitted by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA). The regulation of these signs helps MDOT SHA to manage the outdoor advertising signs, avoid utility lines and waterways, maintain adequate sight distance, and promote the safety and beauty of Maryland’s roads.
It is Maryland’s responsibility to 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. They would include routes maintained by MDOT SHA and the Maryland Transportation Authority.  The MDOT SHA maintains all-numbered routes along 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). 
All off-premise outdoor advertising signs must conform to all Federal/State laws and be approved by the 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 Office of Real Estate at the MDOT SHA headquarters office:
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
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