NPR report: Even as billboard profits rise, so does their unpopularity
Welcome listeners of NPR's Weekend Edition! If you've heard John Burnett's story and want to know more about our efforts to protect America the Beautiful from the forces of blight then you've come to the right place. Here are five quick links that will tell you the rest of the story and how you can help: Click here to listen to the NPR report. 1. Learn more about Lady Bird Johnson's Highway Beautification Act, what it was intended to do and why it has failed.
2. Understand Scenic America's mission and how we accomplish it.
3. Explore Scenic America's free resources including our handy Billboard Fact Sheet.
4. Donate to Scenic America so we can do even more to protect and preserve America the Beautiful.
5. Sign up to receive Scenic Overlook, our monthly e-newsletter on scenic conservation issues.
Billboards won't be allowed to grow taller in Texas
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has withdrawn its June 2014 proposed rule change that would have allowed billboards along federal highways in the state to be taller.
After receiving public comments from more than 900 Texans and 15 organizations in opposition to taller billboards, the agency advised it is removing the item from consideration on the August 28 Texas Transportation Commission agenda. The agency noted the withdrawal was influenced by two expert reports it received from Scenic Texas, one that disputed a previous report TxDOT relied upon, and the second supporting an alternative 30 foot height proposal by Scenic Texas. It further cited the 900-plus comments by Texans who said they wanted scenic roads, not roads cluttered by taller commercial advertising billboards. Click here to read the decision from TxDOT.
"We had confidence Texans would speak up for the beauty of their state. From all across the state, citizens told TxDOT what they tell us every day---that they love Texas highway views and they want them protected," said Margaret Lloyd, vice president, Scenic Texas, and vice-chair of Scenic America. "We read their comments. They were passionate and compelling."
Other organizations joining Scenic Texas in opposition to the taller billboards were the Economic Development Commission of Gillespie County; the Environmental Tree Committee of the Northwest Austin Civic Association; the Friends of the Preserve; the Greater Houston Partnership; the Green Earth Lighting Co.; the Hill Country Alliance; the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce; the Lady Bird Wildflower Center; the North Houston Association; the San Antonio Conservation Society; Scenic Comal County; Scenic Galveston; Scenic Houston; the City of San Antonio; and the Travis County Audubon Society.
Insurance industry expresses concern over digital billboard risks
A.M. Best, the leading rating agency focused on the insurance industry, has produced a video focusing on potential risks to insurers posed by digital billboards.
"Any distraction is going to be of concern to the insurance industry," said Loretta Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute
. "When you turn away from your driving it's going to be a concern and it can cause accidents. [Billboard-related distraction] is something we're concerned about."Click here to watch the A.M. Best video.
It should be noted that the state safety studies referred to in the video by host John Weber are from a 2001 Federal Highway Administration review of research that examined earlier generations of electronic signs.
Ask Congress to support the National Scenic Byways Program
Scenic America is a big supporter of the National Scenic Byways Program. In fact we were one of the groups instrumental in securing the program's creation by Congress as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.Click here to ask Congress to support the National Scenic Byways Program.
For over 20 years all transportation legislation included dedicated funding for a competitive Scenic Byways grants program which allowed byways organizations to apply for money to fund: corridor management planning, construction of interpretive facilities, improvements to access at recreation areas, natural resource protection and byways marketing, among other projects.
As you may know, 2012's MAP-21 legislation ended funding for the America's Byways Resource Center and suspended funding for the competitive grants program.
As Congress considers a new transportation bill in 2014, Scenic America, together with our allies at the National Scenic Byway Foundation, requests that you contact your members of Congress to express your support for scenic byways and ask that they clarify language in the new transportation bill, making it clear that many byway-related projects are eligible for funding under the Transportation Alternatives (TA) program.
Our National Scenic Byways are not only economic engines but sources of pride for the communities they connect. Let's ensure that these special roads stay at the forefront of conversations in Congress during debate over the next transportation bill.Click here to ask Congress to support the National Scenic Byways Program.
Thousands sign petition against digital billboards in Santa Clarita, Calif.
The Santa Clarita City Council is set to respond to a citizen petition effort that garnered more than 18,000 signatures opposing a city plan to allow digital billboards along key gateway roads into the area.
The City Council had previously approved a development agreement with the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the removal of 62 off-site billboard advertising structures from the Metro railroad right-of-way in exchange for six large digital billboard faces along key gateway roads into the city -- two adjacent to Highway 14, and one next to Interstate 5.
Many citizens have spoken up in opposition to this proposal, like Steve Petzold does in this editorial
Scenic America supports the citizens of Santa Clarita in their desire to protect community character and quality of life. We call on the Santa Clarita City Council to listen to the overwhelming desire of residents and repeal the ordinance allowing for the construction of digital billboards. By doing so they will not only be representing the wishes of citizens, but setting a valuable precedent for communities all over the country looking to protect themselves from the visual pollution of digital billboards.
Film of Scenic America's 2014 Conference now available online
Recordings of Scenic America's entire 2014 Conference in Houston are now available for viewing online.
More than a dozen accomplished professionals addressed the conference at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston on April 11, 2014. Speakers from the wold of planning, development, law and academia came together to spotlight the benefits of incorporating scenic beauty into our communities.
Scenic America would like to thank Hines
and Scenic Houston
for underwriting the costs of video production. Click here to view the videos.
Study shows billboards linked to increase in crashes
A study on one of Israel's busiest highways found that the removal of roadside billboards significantly reduced the number of crashes along the roadway, including a more than two-thirds reduction in fatal or injury crashes.
The analysis on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv compared the number and types of crashes at treatment sections, where billboards were present along the roadway, with crashes within a control group of road sections where billboards had been removed or covered.
Statistics on crashes from 2006 and and 2007, when the billboards were visible, and 2008, when they were removed or covered.In 2007, before the billboards were removed or covered, there were a total of 95 crashes within the treatment sections. In 2008, after the billboardswere removed or covered, there were 65 crashes, a decrease of more than one-third. The decrease in injury or fatal crashes was even more compelling: from 55 in the 'before' period of 2007 down to 17 in the 'after' period of 2008, a more than two-thirds reduction.Click here to learn more and download the English abstract.
Billboard Fact Sheet available
Nearly every day Scenic America gets calls from citizens desperately seeking help dealing with the visual pollution caused by billboards. In fact it's the most common call we receive!
In response we have created the Billboard Fact Sheet, a handy 4-page reference guide to basic facts and figures about roadside billboards, and we're making it available free as a PDF download:
Download the Billboard Fact Sheet
In addition, we have a limited number of professionally-printed fact sheets available for purchase in our bookstore. These glossy versions are ideal for handing out at neighborhood gatherings, city council meetings and anywhere else that decisions are being made about how your community looks.
The Billboard Fact Sheet is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to answer some of the more commonly asked questions about billboards and to help stimulate conversation and debate among citizens, public officials and business owners. For more in-depth information about battling billboard blight visit the billboard issue area of our website.
We hope you will find the Billboard Fact Sheet a useful tool in your efforts to combat visual pollution and make your community more scenic!
Seaside road in south Jersey benefits from local couple's efforts
A digital billboard that kept neighbors awake and blighted a southern New Jersey seaside roadway has been taken down thanks to the determination of one local couple.
As part of the settlement of the lengthy and expensive legal battle, the company that put up the Margate Causeway billboard has agreed to never operate a digital billboard along the bayside strip again. In addition, the owner of the property where the billboard stood has signed a deed covenant that will permanently ban any new billboard from being built at the site, and no existing billboards along the causeway can be enlarged or converted to digital.
In exchange, Richard and Deborah Levitt, the couple who successfully sued to take down the sign, won't seek to make the company pay their outstanding legal bill, which exceeds $200,000.
"The Levitts are to be comendended for their courage and determination in seeing that this digital blight went away," said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America and a part-time resident of the Jersey Shore. "All of us in the area are thankful for the Levitt's willingness to take on this issue and emerging victorious."
The $4.3 million billboard: A case study in condemnation costs
Documents reveal that the Minnesota Department of Transportation agreed to spend over $4.3 million in public funds for the removal of a digital billboard as part of a bridge reconstruction project. The billboard’s removal was necessitated by a project currently underway to replace the Lafayette Bridge, which carries state highway 52 over the Mississippi River near downtown St. Paul. The state paid the billboard’s owner, Clear Channel Outdoor, $4,321,000 for the condemnation of a single digital billboard. Clear Channel retained ownership of the billboard and is believed to have relocated the sign to Minneapolis soon after its removal.Click here to learn more.