They say everything is bigger in Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation is doing its best to make that true with a proposal to increase the maximum height of billboards across the state by
more than half the current maximum. But some Texans don’t think bigger is better.
Presently, billboards in Texas are limited to a height of 42.5 feet, a standard adopted in the
1980s as part of Title 43 in the Texas Administrative Code, but the TxDOT is considering changing the rules to increase the maximum height 53% to 65 feet. The new rules would also introduce a minimum
height of 25 feet.
Outdoor advertising companies have petitioned the TxDOT to allow bigger billboards along roadways because, they say, the average speed of vehicular traffic has
increased. Highways are broader than before, while trees planted for landscaping years ago are now large enough to block signage, meaning that the relative visibility of old billboards has decreased.
The Texas Transportation Commission supported this argument with data from studies conducted by the United States Sign Council and the International Sign Association.
height increase would only apply to billboard advertising businesses that are not on the same premises, and located along roads under TxDOT supervision, including Texas interstates, as well as state
highways in rural areas. That means standards adopted by local governments for cities and towns would not be affected (many towns already allow businesses to erect bigger signs on their own
An initial hearing for public comment was scheduled for Tuesday and comments are being solicited through July 14, but it’s already clear that some groups object to
the (literal) expansion of outdoor advertising in Texas. Some recalled that former First Lady and celebrated Texan Lady Bird Johnson was a pioneering advocate of scenic preservation and opponent of
billboard “blight” in Texas and across the U.S.
One such organization, Scenic Texas, urged Texans to oppose the rule change, arguing that “raising the height of
Texas billboards serves no public purpose. Scenic Texas believes billboards are already a driver distraction at the current height, cause light pollution in rural areas as most are brightly lit at
night, and have a negative impact on natural wildlife habitats. Furthermore, billboards degrade taxpayer’s investment in public highways, create visual pollution and spoil scenic views. Taller
billboards would simply aggravate all these concerns.”