Is this really necessary?
In the latest conflict, billboard opponents are objecting to a proposed policy change that would allow billboards as high as 65 feet – taller than a typical six-story building – in spots along Texas highways.
The provision would increase the maximum allowable height of billboards along interstates and primary roads – such as U.S. 290 and Texas 71 – from 42.5 feet to 65 feet. The change would apply only to places where local law allows increasing the height of signs. Houston forbids signs higher than 42.5 feet.
Billboard critics say the height increase would have dire consequences for unincorporated and rural areas.
“When you are out in rural Texas, we already get a lot of complaints about lighting,” said Margaret Lloyd, vice president of Scenic Texas, which monitors state sign rules. The group is a frequent opponent of sign proliferation in Texas.
In a report on the proposed changes, state transportation officials said the height increase would improve visibility and allow billboards in places where they might be blocked by trees. The Texas Transportation Commission will consider the proposed height increase, along with two other regulation changes, later this year; a public hearing is scheduled next week in Austin.
“It comports with scientific studies indicating that to have a functional viewing distance at 60-70 mph a sign should have approximately 65 feet of vertical offset,” officials said in the report.
The analysis came from two studies, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Veronica Beyer said. The studies were based on best practices for making signs legible to drivers, taking into account motorists’ ability to read a sign as they drove toward it at various speeds.
The reports were written by researchers at the International Sign Association and United States Sign Council – both industry-sponsored groups. The reports also found readability is reliant on the amount and size of text.
According to the story, there’s going to be a public hearing about this at TxDOT’s headquarters in Austin today, but I’ll be damned if I can find anything about it on TxDOT’s webpage. I can accept the existence of billboards on the highways – honestly, they can be useful if you’re trying to find the kind of attraction that advertises on billboards that you’ve not been to before – but I’m hard-pressed to see the value in top-of-the-treetops advertising. Unless we’re talking billboards with Gertrude Stein quotes, in which case I’m willing to be flexible. But beyond that, let’s leave at least one public space intentionally blank, shall we? Thanks.