Blue highway signs are there to help you on the road

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When we’re on the highway our eyes are assaulted by all kinds of signs.

But, there’s one particular kind of sign on side of the road that we tend to ignore until we need it – it’s that blue sign that shows where to find gas, food or lodging.

But, who decides which business gets to put their logo on the sign and what are the qualifications needed to be approved?

There are more than 900 blue logo signs on North Carolina highways with more than 14,000 logo panels attached to them.

Drivers say the signs work even when GPS doesn’t.

“There are times I can’t find it on my GPS, it won’t tell us, so there are times when I’m looking for those places,” said driver Kerry Dyer of Raleigh.

The roadside signs are not free advertising.

“There is an annual fee associated with each panel, it’s $300,” explains NCDOT Signing Engineer Renee Roach.

But companies just don’t pay the money and get put on the sign.

First, the state has to inspect the business.

“We have someone in every division that’s a logo coordinator and we look at the facilities and confirm the hours of operation,” Roach says.

Rules say businesses posted on the signs can’t be too far off the highway.

They can’t be more than a mile off an urban interchange and no more than 3 miles in rural areas.

“There is an approval process we go through depending on the type of facility whether it’s gas station, lodging or food,” said Roach.

For example a gas station must:

  • Be open 16 hours a day/7 days a week
  • Have an attendant on duty
  • Have a public restroom
  • Have a phone for emergency use

Food establishments:

  • Must operate 8 hours a day/6 days a week
  • Have indoor seating for at least 20 people
  • Public restrooms
  • Emergency phones

The state makes no money on the deal. The annual logo placement fees help pay to erect and maintain the signs, which aren’t cheap.

“For a typical six panel sign it’s about $8,000 to install,” said Roach.

And if you’re traveling state-to-state you’ll be happy to know the rules and regulations for the logo signs in other states are pretty similar, so you can count on the blue sign, no matter where you are.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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