Texas highway officials are shelving a proposal to increase the permissible height for roadside billboards in suburban and rural areas, citing conflicting facts and a deluge of public criticism.
“It was obvious that Texans care greatly about our visual environment and take pride in the ongoing efforts to improve the traveling public’s experience on our highways,” said Ed Wulfe, a Houston-based commercial property developer and member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s executive committee.
The partnership joined 14 other local or statewide groups in opposing the height increase, which would have applied only in places where local laws don’t set height limits. Houston has one of the state’s strictest billboard codes.
Of 941 comments TxDOT received on the sign rule changes, 919 were related to the billboard height increase, according to a report. More than 900 were from the general public, officials said, asking TxDOT not to increase the maximum sign height.
“We had confidence Texans would speak up for the beauty of their state,” said Margaret Lloyd, a Galveston resident and vice-chairwoman of Scenic Texas, which leads many anti-billboard efforts.
See here for the background. The billboard industry proposed raising the maximum height of billboards from 42.5 feet to 65 feet – for purposes of comparison, the giant statue of Sam Houston outside Huntsville is 67 feet tall, plus a ten-foot base – on the laughable idea that greater visibility for billboards would equate to greater safety. Scenic Texas pushed back, arguing for a reduction to 30 feet instead. The Texas Transportation Commission, sensing a fight it didn’t want to engage in, made the wise choice to retreat. One hopes this will be the end of it, but I wouldn’t count on that. For now at least, the only thing you’ll see above the trees on Texas’ highways will be the sky, and of course the stars at night. Which is how it should be.