merica’s most famous highway, Route 66, originated
in Chicago in 1926 and today travels south and west,
eventually ending in Los Angeles. For decades,
families and visitors have used Route 66 and America’s well-
developed web of highways to travel for vacations, business
and holidays. It’s regarded as a fun and economical way to
see the sights. As travel by car increased, so did the number
of advertising signs and billboards lining the highways.
Concerned that uncontrolled growth in number and size
of signboards would obscure the views of the landscape,
Congress in 1965 passed the Highway Beautification Act
(HBA) to regulate outdoor advertising signs along federal
The HBA requires state departments of transportation
(DOTs) to maintain accurate inventories of signs. But it’s not
easy. Outdoor advertising signs are spread along thousands
of miles of highways, and they can easily be modified and
re-located. The DOTs have limited funding for the inven-
tory work, and previous techniques for manual location and
inspection are time consuming to handle the job efficiently.
In Illinois, an integrated approach provided a good solution
to the problem.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) manages
roughly 16,000 miles (26,000 km) of highways and has an
estimated 24,000 signs subject to the HBA. The effort to
conduct and maintain physical sign inspections consumed
a large amount of time and resources, and IDOT needed
to find efficient and cost-effective ways to manage the
inventory, maintain accurate records and identify illegal
or unpermitted signboards across the state. IDOT selected
Hanson Professional Services Inc. to provide a three-year
program for Outdoor Advertising inventory services. Based
in the state capital of Springfield, Hanson provides consulting
engineering in the transportation, civil, commercial and
energy sectors. For this project, Hanson’s work would consist
of capturing initial data, verification and management of the
signboard database, ongoing change detection and permit
evaluation. The objective was to produce a modern inven-
tory, scanning and input of existing records that accurately
reflected the situation on the ground.
U.S. Laws Require States to Regulate Billboards Along the Nation’s Highways.