Outdoor Advertising Sign Permits

The state of Arizona’s Highway Beautification Program requires oversight of outdoor advertising signs (billboards) placed along state highways and some other roads. This program is in addition to programs and ordinances of local governments to control and oversee placement of signs within their jurisdiction.

State law (ARS 28-7908 ) mandates that the ADOT director develop rules and regulations to administer a sign control program. Daily operations and coordination of the enforcement program were delegated to the Maintenance Permits Services office. The State Outdoor Advertising Control Laws and Regulations (ARS 28-7901 through 28-7915  and R17-3-701 and R17-3-701.01 ) are consistent with laws and regulations promulgated by Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (23 USC 131  and 23 CFR 750 ). The Federal Highway Administration  provides oversight of the state program based upon the federal-state agreement .

The state laws primarily establish the authorized locations, prohibitions and standards for outdoor advertising signs placed and maintained along certain highways throughout Arizona.

To apply for a permit, please fill out and submit an Outdoor Advertising Sign Permit Application .

If you have question related to outdoor advertising, you may contact Statewide Permits Services at Statewide Permits Services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the state regulate outdoor advertising?

The Federal Highway Administration requires each state regulate signage along every controlled highway. If the state fails to provide effective control, they may lose up to 10% of the federal portion of the state's highway funds.

What signs are regulated?

The state regulations are applied based on the type of four categories of signs

On-Premise Signs

An on premise sign is located on the premises of the activity that the sign advertises. The premises are defined as land that is actually used and integral to the activity. If the sign advertises only the activity on the premises, it is exempt from the state's requirements for size, location, and spacing, and does not require an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit.

For Sale/Lease Signs

A ‘For Sale/Lease’ sign advertises property where the sign is located and does not have general advertising as its purpose. If the sign advertises only the sale or lease of the property where the sign is located, it is exempt from the state's requirements for size, location, and spacing and does not require an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit.

Directional and Official Signs

Directional signs direct motorist to publicly owned activities or attractions as well as private activities or attractions that qualify as being of significant interest to the public. Directional signs require a Directional Sign Permit. Please contact Statewide Permits Services.

Official signs are a category of signs that are erected and maintained by public officers or public agencies within their territorial or zoning jurisdiction and pursuant to direction or authorization contained in law for the purposes of carrying out an official duty or responsibility. In most cases, official signs require a State permit but a fee is not applied. Please contact the Maintenance Permits Services office for specific criteria.

Off-premise Signs (billboards)

Billboards are located on premises other than where the activity, service or product that the sign advertises is located. The state's regulations control the size, location, spacing, and lighting of billboards that are along the regulated highways. An Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit is required before erecting or maintaining a billboard along a regulated highway. This is in addition to any permit required by the local governing jurisdiction.

What signs are prohibited?

The state's regulations provide certain prohibitions of regulated Outdoor Advertising Signs. The following are some of the prohibitions.

Signs are not allowed:

  • Unless they are legally erected and maintained after obtaining the required permits.
  • In the highway right-of-way.
  • To simulate or imitate a directional, warning, danger or information sign, such as by the use of the words "STOP" or "SLOW DOWN".
  • Within any stream or drainage channel or below the flood water level of any stream or drainage channel where the outdoor advertising might be deluged by floodwaters and swept under any highway structure crossing the stream or drainage channel or against the supports of the highway structure.
  • To display a red, flashing, blinking, intermittent or moving light or lights likely to be mistaken for a warning or danger signal.
  • To have any illumination of such brilliance and in such a position as to blind or dazzle the vision of travelers on the highway.
  • If they are not maintained in a safe condition.
  • If they are obviously abandoned.
  • To be placed in a manner that obstructs or otherwise physically interferes with an official traffic sign, signal or device.
  • To be placed in a manner that obstructs or physically interferes with the vision of drivers in approaching, merging or intersecting traffic.
  • To be placed on trees or painted or drawn on rocks or other natural features.

Which highways are controlled highways?

Controlled highways are all highways on the National Highway System including all the interstate highways as well as most national and state highways. In addition, certain routes that were controlled highways in 1991 are still controlled highways even if they are not part of the National Highway System.

Where can I install a billboard?

Prior to erecting a billboard that shows to a regulated highway, the sign owner must obtain an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit along with any permit required by the local jurisdiction. To obtain a state permit, the proposed sign and site must conform to the state's outdoor advertising regulations.

For a complete listing the billboard requirements, refer to Arizona Revised Statutes (§§A.R.S. 28-7901 through §§A.R.S. 28-7915) and state regulations (R17-3-701 and R17-3-701.01). The following is a brief summary of the regulations regarding billboard placement:

Inside City Limits: billboards can be erected on property that is zoned commercial or industrial and, at locations that are 500 feet (100 feet if the sign is on a highway other than a freeway) away from any other billboard on the same side of the highway.

Outside City Limits: billboards can be erected on property that is zoned commercial or industrial and, at locations that are 500 feet (300 if the sign is on a highway other than a freeway) away from any other billboard on the same side of the highway.

In addition, the sign must be within 1,000 feet of an ongoing commercial or industrial activity on the same side of the highway, or within 3,000 feet of a freeway interchange that has a business within 1,000 feet of the interchange on the same side of the freeway.

What are the size restrictions on billboards?

A billboard can be single faced, back-to-back, or v-shaped. The maximum size for a billboard is 1,200 square feet per sign face. The maximum vertical dimension of the sign face is 25 feet. The maximum horizontal dimension of the sign face is 60 feet.

A billboard can have two faces facing in the same direction, in which case neither sign face can exceed 350 square feet in area and the total vertical and horizontal dimensions cannot exceed 25 feet and 60 feet respectively.

Who has to get an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit?

The owner of an off-premise advertising sign (billboard), a directional signs, and some official signs are require to obtain an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit prior to the construction of the sign. Applicant for directional or official signs should contact Statewide Permits Services.

How do I apply for a permit?

The sign owner must submit a completed Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit Application package to Statewide Permits Services. The Application can be hand delivered to:

1615 W, Jackson Street (Modular building)
Phoenix, AZ 85007
602.712.7386

or mailed to:

AZ Department of Transportation

Statewide Permit Services
206 S 17th Ave, MD 004R
Phoenix, AZ 85007

A permit application is considered delivered when it is received by Statewide Permits Services. The application is considered submitted when it is delivered and complete.

A complete permit application package consists of:

Note: the proposed sign site must be visibly marked with a stake or other device with the applicant's name identified.

Upon receipt of the application package, Statewide Permits Services personnel will determine if the application is complete and the proposed sign and site conform to the state's Outdoor Advertising Regulations. If it is in conformance, a permit will be issued. If it does not conform, the application will be denied consistent with the licensing time frames regulations under ARS §§ 41-1072 through 41-1079 R17-1-102 .

How much does a permit cost?

The Permit fee is $20.00 payable to the State of Arizona, due at the time of the application.

Do I have to renew the permit?

Permits must be renewed each year. You will be notified of the renewal, however it is the ultimate responsibility of the sign owner to ensure the permit is renewed each year. The renewal fee is $5.00.

Can I transfer the permit?

If a sign is sold, the permit can be transferred to the new sign owner by submitting a written request to transfer the permit. The request must indicate the new sign owner, the new sign owner's mailing address and phone number, and date of the transfer of ownership. The request must be signed by the current sign owner of record and the new sign owner and approved by the Department.

Do I need a permit to put a sign on my own property?

Potentially yes, depending on the type of sign you are considering. If you wish to erect a sign on your property that advertises only a product or service that is located on the same premises as the sign, it is considered an on premise sign and does not require a permit from ADOT.

When is a permit cancelled?

If a conforming billboard is removed, the permit shall expire within 30 calendar days from the date of the removal, except the sign owner may notify Statewide Permits Services in writing of their intent to re-install the sign. The sign owner shall have 120 calendar days within which to re-erect the billboard at the same location. No extension in the time to rebuild the sign is allowed.

How much time do I have to install my sign?

Once a permit is issued, the sign owner has 120 calendar days within which to install the proposed sign. The sign owner may request a 60 calendar day extension in writing from Statewide Permits Services prior to expiration of the original 120 days. If the sign is not installed within the original 120 days or under an approved extension, the permit will be canceled and the sign owner must re-submit a new application package prior to installing the sign.

Can I maintain my sign from the right-of-way?

Signs located along a freeway or any other controlled access highway cannot be constructed, maintained, or accessed from the right of way of the highway.

Signs located along a highway that is not a controlled access highway can be accessed from the right-of-way if there is no other access with an Encroachment Permit obtained from the District office prior to any encroachment upon a state highway or route.

Where can I get copies of the regulations?

Copies of the outdoor advertising regulations may be requested from Statewide Permits Services. The regulations are also available online at the following sites:

Arizona Statutes ARS §§ 28-7901 through 28-7915
Arizona Regulations R17-3-701

Do the State regulations apply within the city limits?

Yes, the Arizona outdoor advertising regulations apply to signs that show to regulated highways regardless of whether the signs are inside or outside city limits. It's important to note that the state's regulations are in addition to any regulations of the governing municipal or county jurisdiction.

Are Electronic Variable Message (EVMS) signs allowed on billboards?

Legislative changes explicitly allow EVMS billboards along certain portions along the state's highway system.

HB 2543(2012) and SB 1114(2017) amended A.R.S. § 7902; outdoor advertising authorized, and provides the following provisions:

  • All new EVMS are restricted to the authorized area described in the statute.
  • Billboards outside the authorized area are prohibited from being converted to EVMS after May 9, 2012.
  • Existing EVMS outside the authorized area are non-conforming.
  • EVMS must be turned off at 11:00 pm.
  • EVMS must have automatic controls to ensure the light intensity is restricted to a set amount dependent upon the size of the sign.
  • EVMS must not display any form of animation and remain static for at least 8 seconds with a transition time no greater than 2 seconds.
  • Owners of signs that are converted to EVMS after the effective date of the act must notify the ADOT and must certify that the EVMS will conform to the statute.
  • Cities, towns, or counties shall not issue permits for conversion of billboards to an EVMS outside the authorized area after the date of the act.
  • Cities, towns, or counties can enact/enforce an ordinance regulating EVMS that is not less restrictive than the statute.

What is a non-conforming billboard?

Non-conforming billboards are those that existed prior to the effective date of the state's regulations and do not conform to the current regulations. Also billboards that do not conform to the state's regulations because of changed conditions are classified as non-conforming.

Generally, non-conforming billboards are allowed to remain as long as the billboard is not altered. The advertising copy can change but the size, location, composition and lighting cannot.

How do I request information on an existing permit/sign?

You may make a public records request at Record Center.