Traffic Q&A: Freeway exit ads have a price tag, guidelines

Staff writerMarch 24, 2014 

Question: I'm writing about those informational signs that list businesses at freeway exits — McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chevron, etc., along with their corporate logos.

Who decides what businesses get to be there, and do they cost money? If it’s free, it seems like awfully good free advertising.

If they cost, where does the money go? — Anonymous, Tacoma

Answer: Those signs are installed and managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation's Motorist Information Sign (MIS) Program.

The spaces are open on a first-come, first-served basis to businesses that meet WSDOT's criteria, which are spelled out in detail on the WSDOT website.

There is a fee. The cost varies based on traffic volumes of the highways where the signs are located.

Annual permit fees on freeways with more than 80,000 vehicles per day are $910 for signs in both directions of travel and $455 for one direction.

For freeways with fewer than 80,000 vehicles a day, it’s $683 for both directions and $342 for one direction.

On conventional two-lane highways, the annual charge is $364 for both directions and $182 for one direction.

Claudia Bingham Baker, a WSDOT spokeswoman, said the money is returned to the MIS program to cover program costs.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 Have a question about traffic congestion, construction, spending or other transportation issues? Send it to Include your name, hometown and daytime telephone number. We’ll answer as many as we can.

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service