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ADOT changes policy on roadside memorials

Roadside Memorial

Families looking to memorialize relatives killed on Arizona roads may no longer need to erect them in secret and fear they’ll be carted off by highway officials.

In an abrupt change in policy, the Arizona Department of Administration will now officially allow such markers to be placed along state highways. And if they can be erected safely and meet other standards, they’ll be allowed to remain — forever.

There’s no shortage of these markers now.

But ADOT spokesman Steve Elliott said as highway workers find them, they put up a notice telling whoever erected them that they’ve got 60 days to remove them.

And if they’re creating a hazard, they’re gone immediately.

The new policy recognizes that families often want some sort of marker near where a loved one died. And Elliott said they also can serve a public purpose.

“They’re reminders of dangers along highways,’’ he said.

It is precisely that danger, Elliott explained, that is why there are the rules for construction and why ADOT engineers will decide on a case-by-case basis where these memorials can be placed and where they cannot.

The basics are simple: No more than 30 inches high and 18 inches wide and made of wood, plastics or composite.

There can be a foundation to keep it from moving, but not with concrete or metal footings. And it can have a plaque with the victim’s name, date of birth and date of death.

But no photographs.

That still leaves the question of where ADOT will allow them to be placed.

“On a controlled-access highway where there’s a lot of traffic, most likely that’s not going to work out,’’ Elliott said, if for no reason other than his agency doesn’t want people pulling over on the edge of an urban freeway to set up the memorial. “But the (ADOT) district office to work with someone on a place that is safe.’’

An easier call, he said, would be on one of the many numbered highways where there can be a safe place not only to stop but where there is a sufficient shoulder off the road but within the ADOT right of way to put the marker.

He said ADOT has the authority to allow such markers even within cities and on Indian reservations as long as it remains on state property. But if the site is in front of someone’s property, whether residential or business, the permission of the owner is required.

And Elliott said they need to be designed so as not to require maintenance by anyone, including the family.

“The point is, we want them to go in and really not be visited,’’ he explained. “They’re not to be having people pull over and tend them constantly.’’

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