Driving on Texas’ roadways can be boring and interesting at the same time, considering that two out of every five billboards you see are more than just an eyesore — they’re illegal.
The Texas Department of Transportation recently disclosed that 8,000 billboards across the state violate the Department’s maximum height rule of 42.5 feet. In the 33 years since the rule was established, thousands of excessively tall billboards have been erected across Texas in knowing violation of the rule, as billboard owners are required in the permitting process to verify that they will not exceed the limit.
There was an effort to clarify the restriction through a statute that went into effect in March 2017, yet the pattern of violation continued as multiple billboards above the height restriction have been raised since that time.
So far, there has been no indication about whether or not the billboard companies will face penalties for these violations.
This revelation comes at a crucial time as the Texas Transportation Commission recently proposed a rule that would raise the height restriction to 85 feet, letting countless offenders off the hook for their violations. In response, lawmakers are currently considering a bill to reinforce the current height limit of 42.5 feet for all new billboards, before the commission rule goes into effect in September 2019.
The Senate Bill, authored by Sen. Robert Nichols (R), passed the Senate with a unanimous bipartisan vote, and the House Bill by Rep. Geanie W. Morrison (R) was recently heard by the House Transportation Committee.
These bills have widespread support from the public and advocacy groups that fear the lack of strong legislation will result in towering billboards littering the Texas roadways and blocking the state’s scenic landscape and defining landmarks.
In a joint op-ed, Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Geanie Morrison stated, “we believe that maintaining the height at 42.5 feet is a compromise that will allow billboard advertisements to continue without doing undue harm to the beauty of our great state.”
Now it remains to be seen whether state representatives will protect the scenic highways in the state or allow the billboard industry to erect 85-foot tall invasive advertisements that line the roads — not that restrictions have stopped them before.