Federal-State Agreements

Federal/State Agreements Required by 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.  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.

In June 1967, the Federal Highway Administration began negotiating with the states to execute the size, lighting, and spacing agreements pursuant to section 131(d) of the Act.  The first two agreements, executed on June 28, 1967, were with Vermont and Rhode Island.  Negotiations with the various states continued through 1971; the last agreement signed through these negotiations was with Texas, on May 2, 1972.

For a revealing look at how the Federal Highway Administration came up with the basic criteria for the Federal/State agreements, read this memorandum from Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Lawrence Jones.  He describes a robust series of public hearings held in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia that resulted in a clear understanding of the concept of “customary use” as it relates to spacing, lighting, and size:

Our first lighting requirement would prohibit flashing, intermittent or moving lights except those giving public service information… based upon safety factors due to the distractive features of such signs.
Lawrence Jones
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator