AUSTIN (KXAN) — Billboards designed to get people’s attention could be getting taller. In a proposal the Texas Department of Transportation has rolled out, drivers on interstates, major roadways and rural areas could see signs as high as 65 feet tall. Tuesday morning people for and against the idea had their say at a public hearing.
“It may seem like a small thing coming from a city, but it’s really a big deal and can really negatively impact your experience of Texas Hill Country,” said Katherine Romans with the Hill Country Alliance. “Having those billboards along the road ways and having the height limit of those billboards go up really impacts your experience of that rural quality of life.”
Romans and about three other people told TxDOT officials they’re concerned taller billboards will create eye sores in rural areas, distract drivers and increase light pollution.
Currently billboards are allowed to be a maximum height of 42.5 feet. TxDOT said studies, conducted by sign industry groups like International Sign Association and United States Sign Council, show that drivers traveling 60 to 70 mph could view a sign better if it’s at 65 feet. Taller signs would also mean trees wouldn’t block ads.
“It’s really at the discretion of the commission and I hope that we continue to have positive dialogue and continue to work towards a intelligent resolution that’s beneficial to all parties,” said Bill Reagan, President of Reagan Outdoor Advertising. He along with an employee were the only people to get up from the sign industry and speak in favor of the proposal.
The Austin company has about 1,000 to 1,500 signs in Texas. Reagan said 70 percent of business comes from small businesses that find outdoor advertising as an affordable alternative.
Reagan said outdoor advertising businesses face challenges with new road construction and designs that impact their billboards. He said when it comes to comments about taller billboards impacting scenic views in Texas he believes, “beauty is an individual term and beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they would say, so I would say I disagree.”
“It is a rule that has been proposed by the industry that benefits from the billboards, it has no public purpose,” said Margaret Lloyd, vice president of Scenic Texas which is a nonprofit group that monitors sign regulation.
She spoke against the proposal on Tuesday and suggested lowering billboards to 30-feet. She believes if the state does adopt this proposal, it would go against what President Lyndon Johnson and first lady Lady Bird Johnson achieved 50 years ago.
Johnson signed the Federal Highway Beautification Act in 1965 which mandates states to regulate outdoor advertisement.
“To have them [billboards] be even taller and more intrusive is total silliness,” said Lloyd.
“A sign that is 45 feet or 65 feet, I don’t’ see much of a mitigated difference,” said Reagan.
TXDOT will continue to take public opinions until July 14th at 5:00 p.m. It said it’s still exploring the idea and nothing is set in stone.
- People can submit comments to Rule Comments, Office of General Counsel, Texas Department of Transportation
- 125 East 11th Street
- Austin, Texas 78701
- Email: RuleComments@txdot.gov
- Subject line “Right of Way”