Chapter 8: Control of Commercial Signs along Interstate or Primary HighwaysAnchor: #CHDCGAHI
Section 1: Sign StandardsAnchor: #i1003393
The following standards apply to signs controlled by the State. To be eligible for a permit, new signs must conform to the following standards. Existing signs that are legally in place, but do not meet the standards, are classified as legal nonconforming signs.Anchor: #i1003403
Establishing Commercial and Industrial Areas
All signs except official or directional signs must be located in either:
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- an area zoned for commercial or industrial use; or Anchor: #NVJXXLHP
- an unzoned commercial or industrial area.
Zoned Commercial or Industrial Areas
A zoned commercial or industrial area is an area designated, through a comprehensive zoning action, for general commercial or industrial use by a political subdivision with legal authority to zone regardless of the specific label used by the zoning authority.
The following areas are not zoned areas:
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- has no actual development of the property for commercial or industrial activity, as described in §21.180, other than specifically sign-related infrastructure; Anchor: #WITQWMMD
- areas designated for and created primarily to permit commercial sign structures along a regulated highway; Anchor: #LHHYCEMM
- unrestricted areas; and Anchor: #AIPTXUMM
- small parcels or narrow strips of land that cannot be put to ordinary commercial or industrial use and are designated for a use classified different from and less restrictive than that of the surrounding area.
Industrial Districts are not recognized as industrial zones.Anchor: #i1003467
Unzoned Commercial and Industrial Areas
An unzoned commercial or industrial area is an:
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- area along the highway right of way that has not been zoned under authority of law; Anchor: #YMUVHGAO
- which is not predominantly used for residential purposes; and Anchor: #YAJYPSPV
- which is within 800 feet, measured along the edge of the highway right of way perpendicular to the centerline of the main traveled way, of and on the same side of the highway as the principal part of at least two adjacent recognized governmental, commercial, or industrial activities.
Proximity to Right of Way
A portion of the regularly used buildings, parking lots, storage and processing areas, where each respective business activity is conducted, must be within 200 feet of the highway right of way, and the permanent building where the activity is conducted must be visible from the main-traveled way.Anchor: #i1003502
Two Separate and Adjacent Activities
To be considered adjacent, there must be no separation of the regularly used buildings, parking lots, storage or processing areas of the two activities by vacant lots, undeveloped areas over 50 feet wide, roads, or streets, or a non-governmental, non-commercial, or non-industrial area. Two activities may occupy one building as long as each has 400 square feet of floor space dedicated to that activity and otherwise meets the definition of a commercial or industrial activity. There must be separation of the two activities by a dividing wall constructed from floor to ceiling, the two activities must have access to the restroom facilities during all hours the activity is open, and the two activities must operate independently of one another. A separate product line offered by one business will not be considered two activities.Anchor: #i1003512
An unzoned commercial or industrial area is more specifically identified as follows:
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- The area to be considered, based upon the qualifying activities, is 1,600 feet (800 feet on each side) plus the actual or projected frontage of the commercial or industrial activities, measured along the highway right of way by a depth of 660 feet. Anchor: #LCDPFWOH
- The area shall be located on the same side of the highway as the principal part of the qualifying activities. Anchor: #YLGYWEUM
- The depth of an unzoned commercial or
industrial area is measured from the nearest edge of the highway
right of way perpendicular to the centerline of the main-traveled
way of the highway. See graphic below:
Figure 8-1. Example of an Unzoned Commercial Area
Test for Residential
The area must be considered as a whole prior to the application of the test for predominantly residential.
An area will be considered to be predominantly residential if more than 50% of the area is being used for residential purposes. Roads and streets with residential property on both sides shall be considered as being used for residential purposes. Other roads and streets will be considered nonresidential.Anchor: #i1003561
Commercial or Industrial Activities
Commercial or industrial activities are those activities customarily permitted only in zoned commercial or industrial areas, except that none of the following shall be considered commercial or industrial activities:
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- commercial sign structures; Anchor: #RCXLEJRC
- agricultural, forestry, ranching, grazing, farming and related activities, including, but not limited to, temporary wayside fresh produce stands; Anchor: #IDMQKWUE
- activities not: Anchor: #QESWVLSU
- activities not housed in a permanent building that is visible from the traffic lanes of the main-traveled way; Anchor: #TRJKHQYF
- activities conducted in a building primarily used as a residence; Anchor: #EEGYSVOB
- railroad right of way; Anchor: #IVKHIFPU
- activities that do not have a portion of the regularly used buildings, parking lots, storage or processing areas within 200 feet from the edge of the right of way; Anchor: #MBKCNPNX
- activities conducted only seasonally; Anchor: #TJOLHUGM
- activities conducted in a building having less than 400 square feet of floor space devoted to the activities; Anchor: #NUURQBPO
- activities that do not have at least one person who is at the activity site, performing work, an average of at least 30 hours per week and on at least four days per week; Anchor: #WBVUUUOC
- activities which have not been conducted at its present location for at least 180 days; Anchor: #GEOBNFVB
- recreational facilities such as campgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, wild animal parks, and zoos, except for the portion of the activities occupied by permanent buildings which otherwise meet the criteria in this subsection, and parking lots; Anchor: #TKCOHKMP
- apartment houses and residential condominiums; Anchor: #QINFARHM
- areas used by public or private preschools, secondary schools, colleges and universities for education or recreation (this does not preclude trade schools or corporate training campuses); Anchor: #ALWOTYTB
- quarries or borrow pits, except for any portion of the activities occupied by permanent buildings which otherwise meet the criteria in this subsection, and parking lots; and Anchor: #WYLSAKOI
- places primarily used for worship.
Effect of Cessation of Activities
When a commercial or industrial activity ceases, causing an off-premise sign to no longer be located within 800 feet of at least two adjacent recognized commercial or industrial activities located on the same side of the highway as the sign, such sign shall become nonconforming.
If TxDOT has evidence that an activity supporting an unzoned commercial or industrial area was created primarily or exclusively to qualify an area as an unzoned commercial or industrial area; and no business has been conducted at the activity site within one year, TxDOT may cancel the permit.Anchor: #i1003685
No sign may be located in a manner that creates a safety hazard, including:
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- causing a driver to be unduly distracted in any way; Anchor: #MNIASCVJ
- obscuring or otherwise interfering with the effectiveness of an official traffic sign, signal or device; or Anchor: #XXMTTQTI
- obstructing or interfering with the driver's view of approaching, merging or intersecting traffic.
The center of a sign may not be located within 250 feet of the nearest point of the boundary of a public space.
This section applies only if a public space boundary abuts the right of way of a regulated highway. Signs may not be located within 1,500 feet of the boundary of a public space that is adjacent to a regulated highway. This prohibition shall apply:
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- on either side of the highway on a non-freeway primary system; and Anchor: #VVPWBMVN
- on the side of the highway to which the public space is located, if the highway is on an interstate or freeway primary system.
The following spacing limitations apply to signs that will be erected outside incorporated municipalities along a freeway or interstate regulated highway. Signs may not be erected:
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- in areas adjacent to or within 1,000 feet of interchanges, intersections at grade, or rest areas; or Anchor: #SVQNUSDM
- in areas adjacent to or within 1,000 feet of ramps or their acceleration and deceleration lanes. (Such distances shall be measured along the highway from the nearest point of beginning or ending of pavement widening at the exit from, or entrance to, the main-traveled way). See graphics below.
The following figures depict the prohibited areas based on the spacing and measurements TxDOT follows.
Figure 8-2. Example of an area of sign prohibition at an intersection at grade
Figure 8-3. Example of an area of sign prohibition at an intersection with overpass
Figure 8-4. Example of an area of sign prohibition at an intersection with turn ramps
Figure 8-5. Example of an area of sign prohibition at a rest stop
Figure 8-6. Examples of spacing limitations
Signs may not be erected closer than 1,500 feet apart on the same side of a regulated highway.
Signs erected outside of incorporated municipalities along the non-freeway primary system may not be closer than 750 feet apart on the same side of the highway.
Signs erected in incorporated municipalities along the non-freeway primary system may not be closer than 300 feet apart on the same side of the highway.
A permitted sign that is located within the incorporated boundaries of a certified city on a highway on a freeway primary system may not be closer than:
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- 1,500 feet to another sign that is on the same side of the highway and outside the incorporated boundaries of a municipality; or Anchor: #FVMPNTTG
- 500 feet to another sign that is on the same side of the highway and inside the incorporated boundaries of a municipality.
A permitted sign that is located within the incorporated boundaries of a municipality on a highway that is on a non-freeway primary system may not be closer than:
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- 750 feet to another sign that is on the same side of the highway and outside the incorporated boundaries of a municipality; or Anchor: #LGRXAHWB
- 300 feet to another sign that is on the same side of the highway and inside the incorporated boundaries of a municipality.
For the purposes of this section, the space between commercial signs is measured between points along the right of way of the highway perpendicular to the center of the signs.
For the purposes of this section, a municipality's extraterritorial jurisdiction is not considered to be included within the boundaries of the municipality.
The spacing between signs shall not apply to signs separated by buildings, natural surroundings, or other obstructions, which cause only one sign located within the specified spacing to be visible at any one time.
No commercial sign may be erected within five feet of any highway right of way line. This distance shall be measured from any part of the sign face nearest the right of way.
A permitted sign that is being displaced by a highway construction project will not be considered in determining the spacing for a new sign application.Anchor: #i1003781
An off-premise sign face may not exceed 672 square feet, with a maximum sign face height of 25 feet and a maximum sign face length of 60 feet, inclusive of borders and trims. Temporary protrusions also known as cutouts, may not exceed 10% of the area indicated on the sign permit. Temporary protrusions may be added to a commercial sign, provided that no commercial sign to which one or more temporary protrusion or cutouts have been added shall have an area greater than 907 square feet.
The maximum size limitations shall apply to each side of the sign structure or structures visible to approaching traffic on the main-traveled way of the regulated highway.
The area shall be measured by the smallest square, rectangle, triangle, circle or combination thereof which will encompass the entire sign face.
Sign faces may be placed back-to-back, side-by-side, stacked, or in V-type construction with no more than two faces presented in each direction. The sign structure or structures shall be considered one sign. Two sign faces facing one direction may be presented as one face by covering both faces and the area between the faces with an advertisement, as long as the size limitations for a single face set forth above are not exceeded.
Signs, which exceed 336 square feet in area, including cutouts, may not be stacked or placed side-by-side.
A sign face may be permanently enlarged by 10% of the size shown on the permit without a new permit, if the enlargement does not cause the face to exceed the maximum size limitations set forth above. If a sign is built with a smaller face than the size shown on the permit, or if the face is reduced in size after it is built, a new permit will be required to increase the size of the face beyond the allowed 10%.
A new permit will not be issued for a nonconforming sign.Anchor: #i1003821
Except as provided by this subsection and subsections (f) and (g) of this section, a commercial sign may not be erected that exceeds an overall height of 42-1/2 feet. If the legislature does not establish a maximum overall height of commercial signs before September 3, 2019, effective September 3, 2019, a commercial sign may not be erected that exceeds an overall height of 85 feet.
A roof sign having a solid sign face surface may not at any point exceed 24 feet above the roof level.
Open sign faces on roof signs in which the uniform open area between individual letter or shapes is not less than 40% of the total gross area of the sign face may be erected to a height of 40 feet above the roof level. The lowest point of a projecting roof or wall sign must be at least 14 feet above grade.
For the purposes of this section, height is measured from TxDOT's determination of grade level of the centerline of the main-traveled way closest to the sign face, at a point perpendicular to the sign location. A frontage road of a controlled access highway or freeway is not considered the main-traveled way for purposes of this subsection. In the event that the main-traveled way that is perpendicular to the sign structure is below grade, sign height will be measured from the base of the sign structure.
The height measurement does not include any renewable energy device such as solar panels or wind turbines that are attached to the sign structure above the sign face to improve the energy efficiency of the sign structure.
In accordance with Transportation Code, Section 391.038, a sign that existed on March 1, 2017, and that satisfies the requirements of Section 391.038, may be rebuilt, without obtaining a new or amended permit from TxDOT, at the location where the sign existed on March 1, 2017, and at a height that does not exceed the height of the sign on that date. A sign structure described by this subsection must otherwise comply with this subchapter.Anchor: #EHOWCFHS
Lighting and Movement of Signs
Lighting. Signs may be illuminated except for signs that contain, include, or are illuminated by:
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- any flashing, intermittent, or moving light or lights, including any type of screen using animated or scrolling displays, such as an LED (light emitting diode) screen or any other type of video display, even if the message is stationary, except those giving only public service information such as time, date, temperature or weather; Anchor: #CQGDXRVB
- lights that are not effectively shielded so as to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled way of a regulated highway; and Anchor: #DOXQKNMT
- lights of such intensity or brilliance as to cause glare or vision impairment to the driver of any motor vehicle, or which otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle; and Anchor: #TCXNQPAO
- lights that interfere with the effectiveness of, or obscure an official traffic sign, device, or signal.
A temporary protrusion may not be illuminated by flashing or moving lights or enhanced by reflective material that creates the illusion of flashing or moving lights.
A conforming sign may be illuminated but only by:
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- upward lighting of no more than 4 luminaires per direction of the sign face or faces of the structure; or Anchor: #LPYKLGTL
- downward lighting of no more than 4 luminaires per direction of the sign face or faces of the structure.
This subchapter does not prohibit a temporary protrusion area of the sign face that displays only numerical characters and that satisfies this subsection and the requirements of section 21.182 of this subchapter (relating to commercial sign face size and positioning). An electronic sign may contain a temporary protrusion described by this subsection. The display on the temporary pro-trusion may be a digital or other electronic display, but if so:
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- it must consist of a stationary image; Anchor: #ACXCJSVP
- it may not change more frequently than four times in any 24 hour period; and Anchor: #SNPXRGXJ
- the process of any change of display must be completed within two minutes.
Reflective Materials. Reflective paint and reflective disks may be used on a sign face unless they are determined by TxDOT to create the illusion of flashing or moving lights; or cause an undue distraction to the traveling public.
Neon. Non-flashing neon lights may be used on sign faces, unless the sign permit specifies an un-illuminated sign structure; or the lights are determined by TxDOT to cause an undue distraction to the traveling public.Anchor: #i1003843
TxDOT has determined that the use of an electronic image on a digital display device is not the use of a flashing, intermittent, or moving light for the purposes of any rule, regulation, and standard promulgated by TxDOT or any agreement between TxDOT and the Secretary of Transportation of the United States.
State rules effective June 1, 2008 allow the erection of LED and Rotating Slat Signs with the following prohibitions that the signs shall not;
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- be illuminated by flashing, intermittent, or moving lights; Anchor: #QFKLSOCG
- contain or display animated, moving video, or scrolling advertising; Anchor: #MSMVWEDV
- consist of a static image projected upon a stationary object; or Anchor: #TSCLKNNJ
- be a mobile sign located on a truck or trailer.
Electronic signs may only be located, relocated, or upgraded along a regulated highway within the corporate limits of a municipality or within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality that pursuant to state law has extended its municipal sign ordinance regulation to include that area and is allowed by the municipality's sign or zoning ordinance.
Electronic signs may not be relocated so that any part of the relocated sign would be within 1,500 feet of another off-premise electronic sign on the same side of a regulated highway.
Non-conforming signs cannot be upgraded to or used to illuminate non-conforming signs. However, a legally conforming sign may be modified to an electronic sign if a new permit for the electronic sign is obtained from TxDOT. Lighting shall not be added to or used to illuminate a sign if prohibited by the municipality's sign or zoning ordinance.
Electronic signs may be located on either side of the highway; however, each sign must only be visible from one direction of travel. Each message on an electronic sign shall be displayed for at least eight seconds and a change of message shall be accomplished within two seconds. A change of message must occur simultaneously on the entire sign face.
An electronic sign must contain a default mechanism that freezes the sign in one position if a malfunction occurs; and automatically adjust the intensity of its display according to natural ambient light conditions.
The owner of an electronic sign shall coordinate with local authorities to display, when appropriate, emergency information important to the traveling public, such as Amber Alerts or alerts concerning terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Emergency information messages shall remain in the advertising rotation according to the protocols of the agency that issues the information. The sign owner shall provide to TxDOT contact information for a person who is available to be contacted at any time and who is able to turn off the electronic sign promptly after a malfunction occurs.
If TxDOT finds that an electronic sign causes glare or otherwise impairs the vision of the driver of a motor vehicle or otherwise interferes with the operation of a motor vehicle, the owner of the sign, within 12 hours of a request by TxDOT, shall reduce the intensity of the sign to a level acceptable to TxDOT.
TxDOT will grant a permit for an electronic sign if the application for the permit satisfies the requirements of 43 TAC, Subchapter I and has attached a current copy of the municipality’s sign ordinance that gives permission for an electronic sign.Anchor: #i1003889
Wind Load Pressure
Permit applications for new signs and permit renewals must include a certification signed by the applicant that the proposed or existing sign will withstand wind load pressures in pounds per square foot as set out in the table below.
Height, in feet above ground, as measured above the average level of the ground adjacent to the structure
Pressure, pounds per square foot
0 – 5
6 – 30
31 – 50
51 – 99
100 – 199
200 – 299
300 – 399
400 – 500