By Bill Hanna
Imagine driving across Texas and seeing billboards suddenly stretching twice as high, marring your view of the landscape.
A scenic advocacy group fears this could be the result of proposed new rules from the Texas Department of Transportation.
For decades, the maximum height for billboards has stood at 42 1/2 feet. But the proposed rules state that “a sign existing on March 1, 2017 may not be higher than 85 feet.” That’s taller than an 8-story building.
While the agency contends its new rule is only intended to bring some taller billboards into compliance with state law, the group Scenic Texas believes it could open the door for billboard companies to raise existing signs.
“The way we interpret it is that any billboard that existed on March 1 may go up to 85 feet,” said Margaret Lloyd, vice president of Scenic Texas, who lives in Galveston.
TxDOT will be accepting comments on the proposed rule change through 5 p.m. on Oct. 16.
In this year’s legislative session, Senate Bill 312 added a new portion of the state’s transportation code declaring that signs existing on March 1, 2017 “may not be higher than 85 feet.” It also stated that signs could be rebuilt without obtaining a new permit as long as they remain at their existing height. TxDOT has now written rules to implement the change.