October 24th, 2013
Show Me a SignPreserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.
The new Outdoor Advertising Control Map is improving government transparency and boosting efficiency at UDOT.
The outdoor advertising industry, UDOT Project Managers and UDOT Permit Officers represent three of the groups that are benefitting from a new online map that shows geospatial locations of billboards along interstate routes.
State governments enforce federal rules regulating billboards on some routes. Back in the 1960s, Ladybird Johnson took an interest in highway beatification and worked with congress to pass laws limiting the proliferation of billboards on freeways.
UDOT has a codified agreement with the federal government that determines how billboards are treated on federally-funded primary routes, the National Highway System and Scenic Byways. The agreement, passed in 1968, established the UDOT Outdoor Advertising Control System.
Not controlling billboards would mean UDOT’s share of federal money for roads would be reduced by tens of millions of dollars each year.
From days to minutes
Until recently, finding out when the exact location of a billboard could take a day or longer. Depending on the information needed, state employees would sometimes have to check up to three separate documents or drive to a billboard location, which could be hundreds of miles away.
Now, new GIS tools mean it’s possible to put information about billboards in the hands of anyone with online access. See the map by visiting the UDOT’s Outdoor Advertising Control Program web page or UPlan, UDOT’s Map Center.
By using the map, a few mouse clicks can produce an image of the billboard and get information about federal rules that apply – like proximity to the closest billboard. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to see billboards online in real-time and connected to our inventory control system,” says Rod McDaniels, Outdoor Advertising Control Program Manager, who worked with a multi-disciplinary team of experts to re-design the way UDOT regulates outdoor advertising signs.
Getting it together
Gathering and organizing the information involved identifying known sign locations and filling in information gaps where needed, conceptualizing and building an efficient system to regulate billboards, and building a user-friendly online, interactive map. During the process, over 5 hundred geospatial points referencing signs were updated.
Saving time and funding dollars
Putting the map online has reduced the workload for UDOT employees, which conserves funding. Formal requests for information from the public have been reduced since people in the sign industry can easily find the needed information.
Feedback from the outdoor sign industry has been positive. “It brings us into the twenty-first century,” says Krissy Plett, Statewide Permits Officer for UDOT. “Now they don’t have to send someone out to view a sign” since users can take a virtual trip to a billboard using the map.
The map helps expedite project delivery too. UDOT project managers and maintenance workers can now easily see the exact location of signs that may be impacted by road work.
See the map, a PDF tutorial, and find information about state and federal laws and rules here.
See more maps or make your own map by visiting UPlan.
Interested in government transparency? See the UDOT Projects website to get information about past, current and future UDOT projects.