Highway Beautification Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Highway Beautification Act as others, including Lady Bird Johnson, look on. Sen. Jennings Randolph is at Mrs. Johnson’s right. Sen. Daniel Inouye is behind LBJ, Sen. Pat McNamara is at his left. LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto.

The Highway Beautification Act (HBA) has been the subject of significant controversy since it passed in 1965.  The HBA was intended to protect natural and scenic beauty along federal-aid highways by, among other things, controlling billboards in rural, scenic and agricultural areas.

Click on any headline below to read more, or read the full text of the HBA here

About the Highway Beautification Act

Known as “Lady Bird’s Law,” the Highway Beautification Act addressed the challenge of bringing beauty to the nation’s highways by controlling outdoor advertising, junkyard control, landscaping, and scenic enhancement of federal-aid highways.

Objectives of the Highway Beautification Act

The Highway Beautification Act requires states to maintain “effective control” of outdoor advertising or else be subject to a loss of 10 percent of their Federal-aid highway funds. 

Implementation of the Highway Beautification Act

Although only 32 states were in compliance with the HBA by 1970, Congress increased funding and the Federal Highway Administrator applied pressure so that almost all states were in compliance by 1972. 

Issues and Concerns with the Highway Beautification Act

Advocates of scenic conservation argue that the HBA falls short of the mark in establishing a legal framework for enforcing and policing the outdoor advertising industry.

Interpretation of Billboard Laws Subsequent to the Highway Beautification Act

Since the passage of the HBA in 1965, billboard litigation has largely centered on challenges to state and local billboard laws. Some of these decisions may have implications for the HBA today. 

Federal/State Agreements

Each state was required to enter into a mandatory agreement with the federal government that set forth sign controls in commercial and industrial areas based on customary usage within the individual state at the time the agreement was signed.