Published: Friday, December 2, 2011 ‘Past time’ to put an end to illegal road signs
The recently completed election cycle saw 99 candidates run for office in Fairfax County, and with them many thousands of campaign signs joined the bright yellow “Junk B Gone” and other advertising signs that litter our median strips and roadways.
It is past time that Fairfax County move to address these illegally placed signs. I believe there are at least five compelling reasons to act: Placing signs in Virginia Department of Transportation rights-of-way is an illegal activity. Just four weeks ago, I was contacted by a constituent who told me that by placing my signs in the medians I was breaking the law. Quite frankly, she was right, and I had no good answer for her — saying “everybody does it” is just not good enough. It is time to enforce the law.
Fairfax County is the only county in the state that has not addressed this problem. I do not see the same problem as I travel throughout Virginia.
Signs in the median can be dangerous, obstruct sight distance and distract drivers. My office received many calls asking us to remove signs from both parties that blocked the view of drivers trying to turn. I am aware of at least one accident this election season that was blamed on a campaign sign that obstructed sight distance. źDemonstrate pride in our community. I find it hypocritical that we regularly complain about grass height in medians, but will not deal with 4-foot-by-8-foot multicolored pieces of plastic. źCost to VDOT and the county. Prior to each mowing, VDOT must pay to clear the rights-of-way of illegally placed signs and other litter. VDOT and the county also must pay to clear the signs that candidates fail to remove after the election is over.
Under the current Virginia Code, a county does not have the legal authority to remove signs from VDOT rights-of-way unless it enters into an agreement with the Commonwealth Transportation commissioner authorizing it to do so. However, even if Fairfax were to enter into such an agreement, the current Virginia Code imposes certain limitations on the county’s authority to remove signs from VDOT rights-of-way that do not apply to any other county. For example, the Virginia Code provides Fairfax cannot remove signs and advertising supporting an individual’s candidacy for elected public office or other ballot issues until such signs have been in place for more than three days after the election to which they apply. Del. Dave Albo is preparing to submit a bill this legislative session to eliminate this Fairfax specific limitation. At the Dec. 6 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, I will ask my colleagues on the Board to approve the following actions:
Support legislation that would remove from the Virginia Code all restrictions that apply only to Fairfax with respect to the removal of signs from VDOT rights-of-way.
Direct the county executive to develop and present to the Board cost-effective options for removal of signs from the rights-of-way, including leveraging the use of existing staff, part-time resources, VDOT and organizations or groups that currently remove signs — the Town of Herndon, Reston, Fair Lakes League, Burke Center Conservancy and Adopt a Highway groups to name a few.
Direct the county attorney to draft an agreement between the Board and the Commonwealth Transportation commissioner for consideration and approval by the Board at a public hearing that would authorize the county to remove all signs from VDOT rights-of-way. It is well past time to put an end to illegal signs in our medians and roadways. I believe that with a two- or three-year focused effort and minimal investment we can rid our communities of illegal road signs for good.
Pat Herrity, Fairfax County supervisor (Springfield)