pass legal muster, while reducing the amount of staff time spent
on non-conforming applications.
Figure 3 shows how DOT staff can do on-site analysis and
receive feedback in real time. Photos taken on site can be
uploaded into a case file in the software. Field inspector notes
about topography, land use, buildings, or distances from
other ODA or the nearest intersection or interchange can be
added instantly. The use of voice-to-text can greatly reduce the
amount of time spent preparing field notes.
Consider, for example, a new ODA application in Oregon. The
state’s application requires the applicant provide details about
location, square footage, height and more. It even asks for a
sketch of the proposed sign. An inspector can use technology
on-site to analyze the proposed location and get real-time
feedback on the closest sign in any direction. With a mobile
device, a user can check and upload details like topography,
vegetation and distance from the nearest interchange or
intersection. Using location-based spatial analysis, the inspector
can determine the exact location at which the sign should
be placed to achieve compliance with the state’s minimum
proximity of 2,000 feet to existing billboards in rural areas.
For example, a proposed billboard along a stretch of Oregon
interstate highway is 2,200 feet from one sign and 1,800 feet
from another. Using a mobile device with mapping software,
the agent can “move” the sign 200 feet and upload the modified
location, along with notes on the necessary action, into the case
file stored in the software. The applicant could agree to the new
location or withdraw the application. See Figure 4.
Recordkeeping of previous inquiries about specific locations
for billboards varies from state to state. Many utilize a database,
while others still rely on the memory of its staff. Not having a
centralized system of previous applications and inquiries for
the same location causes unnecessary work which can easily be
“Some states will issue a permit at a specific location and give
the applicant a limited time to erect a sign,” Clyde said. “If no
sign goes up, the permit is pulled and the applicant can’t apply
for another permit at that location for a certain amount of time.
Yet, other applicants can request a permit for that location.”
Systems can be configured to have these types of checks built
into the process and present users with information on previous
inquiries. Location-specific searches can be accomplished
Figure 3: With web-based software, DOT staff can use mobile devices for
on-site analysis of permit applications and receive feedback in real time.
quickly, providing access to records on decisions made on
previous inquiries and applications, as well as the proximity of
DOTs maintain information on active permits in a database,
but the effectiveness of each system varies with age and
capabilities. The quality of information also depends on the
timely updates of permit information. DOTs typically rely on
each permit holder to keep the agency notified of any changes
of information. Some DOTs require notification in writing
within 30 days of a change of name and/or address. Absent such
notification, permit revocation action can follow.
The majority of states also process sign renewals. Many of
these are processed annually at a designated time of year
or individually on the anniversary of when the permit was
originally approved. In the second instance, the agency can be
peppered with renewals throughout the year, and the volume
can cause significant challenges. The processing time can
increase significantly if there is no response to the agency’s
renewal notice, which means the DOT must contact the
landowner, obtain information and, worst case, start action to
have the sign removed.
Software can automate the entire process. Once the information
is input, including the sign owner, history, cost, billing address
and renewal date, DOT staff can generate the permit renewal
information automatically. Invoices can be mailed or sent
online, depending on requirements and preferences, and the
software can also track payments.