Maintenance of highway pole signs left up to business owners

Bowling Green officials say that tall roadside signs are maintained entirely by property owners.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Heavy winds have taken a toll on several tall highway signs, totaling cars and killing two people in Elizabethtown in January. The City of Bowling Green says that while they inspect the signs when they are first built, routine maintenance is left up to the businesses and property owners.

“How the property owners and the businesses that own those signs maintain those and inspect those, I’m not aware of. But the only time that they are inspected by a building inspector is really at the time of installation,” said Brent Childers, director of Bowling Green’s Neighborhood and Community Services.

Childers attributes the rising number of falling signs to increased windy weather and storms.

“It feels like an increased level of wind-related events. Obviously, we had the tornado here about 15 months ago which put 150 miles an hour winds in the community, the storms the other day put 60-mile hour winds in the community, just the other day we had some 40-50 mile an hour winds, sustained levels of wind,” said Childers.

City officials say that acquiring one of the pole signs is a difficult process and one that requires a good deal of permits, zoning knowledge, and preparation. The signs must then be inspected by a third-party inspector.

“If somebody wants to get one of these signs they have to get a permit, there’s a sign permit,” said Childers. “And then they’re heavily engineered. So there’s a lot of structural engineering that goes into the development of what I call those interstate pole signs.”

At this point, the city has no intention of updating any regulation on how often signs are inspected.

Childers said, “At this point, there’s been no conversation about a regular inspection, because the inspection probably would not, could not be done by our staff, just based on the level of engineering that goes into these.”