By JIM TRAMMEL, Agritourism Monthly
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Your agritourism operation could benefit from a highway sign so more people passing by will know you're there.
The process of getting a sign can be confusing. Some of the costs are steep, but some are reachable. Your attraction and the connecting roads may or may not qualify you for the sign you would like. Others may have beaten you to the intersections you need. Or you might have to file forms with your city, county, local or regional tourism association, the state, and/or a state contractor.
To help you navigate these matters, we asked state signage program manager Steve Spradlin for the breakdown.
TODS Program (Tourist Oriented Directional Sign)
Regulations: 603 KAR 4:040
What they are: Blue 72-by-18-inch signs (on state highways only, not interstates), with up to two lines of white-on-blue type with the attraction's name, and possibly also a directional arrow and the mileage. See image above.
Who is eligible: The program is administered by Kentucky Logo Inc., under contract to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Participants pay the cost to manufacture the sign, along with an annual fee.
Eligibility regulations: For the complete rules and regulations, see 603 KAR 4:040.
Contact: J.R. Jarvis at Kentucky Logo Inc. (502-227-0802). Before you call, determine how many signs it will take on how many state routes to guide motorists to your attraction (multiply your costs accordingly). Remember to plan approaches from all directions. J.R. will discuss your situation and determine your eligibility before sending you the application to complete and return.
If your attraction qualifies, there will be a site visit to plan the sign installation, and then Kentucky Logo will put up your sign.
Costs: $216 per year annual fee; $200 covering and uncovering fee for seasonal operations; $450 cost for initial manufacture of the sign. $450 to replace stolen or damaged signs.
Regulations: 603 KAR 4:035
What they are: The familiar blue multi-panel signs, found only as you approach interstate exits, that list advertised Attractions, Camping, Lodging, Food, and Gas (in that order). These signs are usually placed starting approximately one mile before an exit ramp, at 800-foot intervals.
Procedure: As with TODS, companies apply to Kentucky Logo for erecting a logo sign or to rent a space available on an already-existing logo sign board. Call J.R. Jarvis at Kentucky Logo Inc.
These signs, much more numerous than the TODS, are a major revenue producer for the state. Media reports on state records indicate that Kentucky Logo remits over $150,000 to the state every calendar quarter, with an estimated 35 percent of those funds coming from this category.
Costs: $600 per year annual fee; $100 covering or removal fee; varying cost for manufacturing the sign depending on the colors in the logo; replacement cost for lost, stolen, or damaged signs.
Limited Supplemental Guide Signs
Regulations: 603 KAR 4:050
What they are: Large brown signs on interstates and other partially-controlled-access highways. This type of sign is a big-money (often five figures) investment, designed for high-traffic, high-volume attractions that draw visitors from a wide area.
Who is eligible: Any tourist attraction, agricultural included. The signs alert motorists to historical sites; cultural, recreational or entertainment facilities; or natural phenomena or areas of scenic beauty.
Sign proposals of this type must pass an extensive screening by the Transportation-Tourism Interagency Committee. Some of these screenings progress fairly quickly; others take longer.
To be eligible, the attraction must demonstrate several thousand annual attendance (limits vary by attraction type and population density; see the Regulations). One-third of the attraction's visitors must come from over 20 miles away.
These signs have many restrictions on spacing, lettering, color, and other specifics from the Federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Your sign will be located between one and two miles from the exit your patrons will take (the last mile before the exit is for the Gas – Food – Lodging – Attractions Logo Signs).
If the tourist attraction is not visible from the interchange, trailblazing signs must also be installed where each turn is required once a motorist exits the interstate. These may be Cultural and Recreational Guide signs, Tourist Oriented Directional Signs, Wayfinding signs, or legal billboards. "We cannot get people off the interstate and then not direct them to the attraction," Spradlin explained.
Federal rules and regulations limit these signs to two panels with two supplemental messages each per direction. Here's a category where you might find someone has beaten you to the punch: "Many of our interchanges across the state are at the limit and will not be eligible for additional messages," Spradlin said.
Cultural & Recreational Guide Signs
Regulations: 603 KAR 4:045
What they are: Brown signs on state highways, with two lines of white type bearing the attraction name. There may also be a directional arrow and mileage. Sign placement and details of production are tightly specified. For example, some cities have wanted to add their city logo to their C&R signs, but the Regulations and the MUTCD rules prevented it.
Who is eligible: Costs here favor wineries/vineyards, farmers' markets, farm stays, B&Bs, and attractions
of similar size and scale.
How to apply: Contact your county tourism authority.
Three attractions are allowed per sign. Because so many attractions qualify for and want these signs, county authorities should take the initiative, in coordination with the state, to assess overall interest for all a county's agritourism attractions at once, Spradlin said.
If interested in a C&R sign, though, work quickly, because state government is slowing down this program in favor of the more flexible Wayfinding signs.
Costs: As determined by the study. Seasonal attractions may have to pay an extra fee to have their signs covered and uncovered to reflect their seasonal operations.
Because situations came up that could not be neatly accommodated by the tightly-structured signs in the other categories, a new category of signs without as many restrictions was created in the MUTCD, the governing document for this class of signage.
There may be three attractions per sign. A city logo may be added to the top of this category of signs to make the signs more instantly recognizable.
The "blue horse" signs in Lexington, put up for the October 2010 World Equestrian Games to direct visitors toward the city's major attractions, were a test project for Wayfinding signs, Spradlin said.
Communities and counties working with their state Transportation Cabinet district office may design and install signs in their own unique styles, according to the terms of a program coordinated with the Transportation district offices and the MUTCD.
This article first appeared in the July issue of Agritourism Monthly, a Kentucky Department of Agriculture newsletter dedicated to Kentucky's agritourism industry. Jim Trammel is managing editor of Agritourism Monthly.