20 January 2020
I’m back from Texas and I’m going to share with you: TEXAS BILLBOARDS. Boring as they may seem, they really do stand out when I think about the time I spent out there in the “lone star state.”
Why? Probably because we spent quite a bit of time on the road. I love road trips, I love looking out the window and letting my thoughts just flow from one to another. Very relaxing…
Well, in Texas, there are so many billboards, my thoughts only flowed from one advertising message to another. I didn’t mind at first, but after a few days I found myself always asking, “why?” and then getting annoyed. Not very relaxing…
Did some research to answer my “why” question, and found that President Lyndon Johnson, did his very best, through the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, to put some limits on the ever-growing billboards along the roadsides, to protect the natural landscape. However, even Johnson’s vaunted powers of persuasion could not overcome the lobbying efforts of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. They essentially won: the Highway Beautification Act ironically ended up protecting these billboards from being removed by a city—unless the city pays cash compensation. And these costs can really add up.
For over 50 years activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. Four states—Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine—have banned them outright. Rhode Island and Oregon have said no new billboards. But in Texas, the Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously to eliminate the existing 42½-foot height restriction beginning September 2019, allowing the size limit to double.
There’s the answer!