No signs visible from the main traveled way of the interstate system, primary system, or scenic system may be erected or maintained unless they are directional or other official signs or notices required or authorized by law.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) sets specifications for a uniform system of traffic control signals for use on public highways within the state. This uniform system is required to conform as much as possible to the system approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials and as set out in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for streets and highways, published by the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.
The WSDOT erects and maintains signs, signals, signboards, guideposts, and other traffic devices on state highways according to the adopted and designated state standard of design, erection, and location.
Local authorities place and maintain traffic devices on public highways under their jurisdiction as necessary to carry out the provisions of the law or local traffic ordinances or to regulate, warn, or guide traffic. Cities and towns with a population of over 15,000 are required to adequately equip streets that are designated as forming a part of the route of a primary or secondary state highway and streets that constitute connecting roads and secondary state highways to these cities and towns with traffic devices under the direction of the WSDOT.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WSFW) is tasked with preserving, protecting, perpetuating, and managing the wildlife and food fish, game fish, and shellfish in state and offshore waters. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages state trust land. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Washington State Parks) is tasked with the care, charge, control and supervision of all parks and parkways acquired or set aside by the state for park or parkway purposes.
Signs on or near bridges that provide location-specific information on the hazards of jumping may be visible from the main traveled way of the interstate system, primary system, or scenic system, as long as they do not conflict with federal requirements.
A city's, town's, or county's executive officer or city, town, or county staff overseeing bridge operations and maintenance may authorize the erection of informational signs near or attached to bridges providing location-specific information about the hazards of jumping where people might otherwise think a location is safe for swimming. Signs may include the statewide 988 suicide prevention hotline. Cities and towns responsible for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of bridges are encouraged to create a process for individuals to request the installation of such informational signs.
These signs are prohibited from conflicting with provisions of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices or existing state law related to the placement and design of signs placed along transportation corridors. If a sign is to be located along a state highway or the interstate system, the WSDOT must be notified of the location, but no permit is required from the WSDOT.
Cities, towns, and counties may accept gifts and donations to pay for the creation, installation, or maintenance of these informational signs.
Before entering into a contract for the construction or replacement of a bridge, the WSDOT, DFW, DNR, Washington State Parks, and port districts must consider whether to require the installation of these informational signs as part of the contract. This requirement does not apply to replacements of culverts that are barriers to fish passage by the WSDOT. Before entering into a contract for the construction or replacement of a bridge when a party to the construction contract is the State or a local jurisdiction that is a party as the result of a property interest, private railroad companies must also consider whether to require the installation of these informational signs as part of the contract.
No private right of action is created by these provisions, nor may they be used to impose liability if a sign has not been posted on its property.
By January 1, 2023, the Washington State Parks is required to install a sign in memory of Zachary Lee Rager on or near the bridge where he lost his life as a result of cold-water shock.
The stated legislative intent is to create a pathway so that governments may work with individuals and communities to erect more signs with location-appropriate information to prevent future deaths from cold-water shock drowning.