Transportation Art Guidelines for Local Agencies

General Procedure

Transportation Art includes graphic or sculptural artwork, either freestanding or placed upon a required engineered transportation feature (such as a noise barrier, slope paving, bridge, bridge abutment, or bridge rail) that expresses unique attributes of a community’s history, resources, or character.

Transportation Art is proposed, provided, installed, maintained, removed or restored by the public agency representing the area where the art will be installed. The applicant must be a public agency which is either a city, county, incorporated town, tribal government or non-federally recognized tribe.

The process for implementing transportation art follows 6 steps:

  1. concept proposal,
  2. preliminary proposal,
  3. qualified proposal,
  4. final proposal,
  5. approved final proposal, and
  6. issuance of encroachment permit.

The project concept phase is initiated by contacting the Caltrans District Transportation Art Coordinator. A listing of Coordinators can be found on the Quick Links to the left.

Once the applicant and the Coordinator have agreed upon the location and concept of the artwork, the applicant may submit a Transportation Art Proposal form with the attachments listed below. The form is available on the links above. The Coordinator reviews this preliminary proposal and requests additional data as needed. A public review to show local acceptance should be scheduled.

When the preliminary proposal is accepted as complete the Coordinator will request additional documents for the qualified proposal review. Draft copies of the Local Agency Agreement, the Maintenance Agreement, as well as the "Assignment and Transfer of Copyright and Waiver of Moral Rights in Artwork" are submitted with the qualified proposal and an encroachment permit application form (TR-100) to the Caltrans Permits Office, available electronically in the link above. Comments from the ensuing review are sent back to the applicant for clarification.

Responses to comments and inquiries from the Permits Office are incorporated into the final proposal along with the signed Local Agency Agreement, proof of insurance, a draft Maintenance Agreement, and a signed and notarized "Assignment and Transfer of Copyright and Waiver of Moral Rights in Artwork".

The complete final proposal is then sent to the District Director for approval. The final package may be approved by the District Director without the signed Maintenance Agreement, however, the signed Maintenance Agreement must be submitted prior to issuance of the encroachment permit. Once the Encroachment Permit Office mails the encroachment permit to the applicant, installation may begin.

Transportation Art Proposal Contents

Preliminary proposals must include:

  • Resumé of the artist’s work and background.
  • Full description of the proposed Transportation Art, including a model or scaled plans, elevations, sections and details necessary to convey location, view from all sides, materials, and construction or installation methods. Caltrans may furnish site data.
  • Proposed location, showing existing topography, and dimensions and offsets to right-of-way lines, edge of pavement, centerline, and the clear recovery zone.
  • If the proposal includes freestanding art, new structures, or modification of existing Caltrans’ structures, include plans and details stamped by a licensed engineer.
  • Proposed color scheme, paint or stain materials, or protective coatings.
  • Environmental documentation as required.Confirm with the Coordinator.
  • Material safety data sheet for proposed materials.
  • Proposed lighting and identification of non-State supplied source of electrical power.
  • Specifications.
  • Proposed traffic control plans and specifications if needed.(applicant may use Caltrans standard plans if applicable or supply their own engineer stamped plans).
  • Proposed cost estimate and valuation of the completed artwork.
  • Proposed construction schedule.
  • Projected lifespan.
  • Proposed maintenance access plan and maintenance schedule.

    The Transportation Art Proposal form collects all this information in an organized format for the preliminary proposal. The form is available on the Quick Links.

    Transportation Art Requirements

    Transportation art must:

  • Express unique attributes of an area’s history, resources, or character.
  • Be either a freestanding structure or integrated with an engineered transportation feature.
  • Not display text.
  • Not display symbols or icons such as flags, logos, or commercial symbols, except as allowed for “Sponsor Recognition” in the Project Development and Procedures Manual, Chapter 29.
  • Not use or simulate colors or combinations of colors reserved for official traffic control devices described in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
  • Not imitate, obscure, or interfere with traffic control devices.
  • Not simulate movement or include moving elements (kinetic art).
  • Not include reflective or glaring surface finishes.
  • Be appropriate to its proposed setting and be in proper scale with its surroundings.
  • Not create a distraction to transportation system users. It should be large enough to interpret at highway speed, but not demand attention from the motorist.
  • Be located where maintenance can be safely performed as specified in the encroachment permit, the maintenance agreement, and in conformance with Caltrans’ procedures.
  • Not include illumination (such as blinking or intermittent lights) that impairs the vision of or distracts transportation system users. Other lighting may be permitted.
  • Be composed of materials that are durable for the projected lifespan.
  • Be fully funded for design, installation, maintenance, restoration, and removal for its projected lifespan.
  • Conform to provisions of the California Outdoor Advertising Act.
  • Not interfere with airspace above the roadway.
  • Not be placed on trees, rocks or other natural features.
  • Not adversely affect existing structures, drainage patterns, stormwater runoff quality, landscaping, or natural vegetation.
  • Not restrict sight distance.
  • Be designed to minimize ongoing maintenance needs. Caltrans-approved protective graffiti coatings may be required if appropriate.
  • Be consistent with Headquarters Division of Maintenance-Structure Maintenance and Investigations inspection requirements, including the following:
    • Paint used on structures should not fill or obscure cracks. Latex or other flexible type paints may be used on concrete structures only with written permission.
    • Painting of steel structures will only be permitted with written permission from the Headquarters Division of Maintenance-Structure Maintenance and Investigations.
    • Painted art should avoid load-carrying, stress-bearing structural members including, but not limited to bridge girders, soffits, columns, and piers. Wing walls and abutments are preferred locations for painted art.
    • Artwork must not hinder inspection of bridges, retaining walls, and other structures.
    • To facilitate Caltrans’ inspection, mural art may be placed on removable panels.
    • Chipping, blasting, or modifying existing concrete surfaces is prohibited, unless required by Division of Maintenance-Structure Maintenance and Investigations.

Additional guidance for placing transportation art on highway bridge structures is available from Headquarters Division of Engineering Services-Structure Design, Office of Transportation Architecture.

A list of all required attachments is available on the Transportation Art Proposal application, available on the links at the top of the page.