Copied and pasted below are 3 emails in first to last order.
The billboard industry is once again making a run at trying to get approval to put digital LED billboards along our highways. The Texas Transportation Commission has this item on their agenda for their August 23rd meeting. A copy of the agenda is attached.
If you are concerned about this threat, please read the following information from Margaret Lloyd, Policy Director of Scenic Texas, which outlines the problem and suggestions as to what you can do about it. Scenic Texas is the state-level affiliate of Scenic America. For more information on these organizations, please see:
Illegal Signs in Austin *************************************************************** From: Margaret Lloyd <mailto:email@example.com> Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2007 3:01 PM Subject: Austin/Hill Country help
They're at it again. On Aug. 23 the TxDOT commission will consider allowing LED electronic screens on the very highways Lady Bird tried to protect. We are mounting an effort to stop or delay the vote. Can any of you help with gathering letters, petitions, or attending the meeting on the 23rd to express opposition? We're working at every level, commissioners, legislators, media and grassroots.
Pls. let me know if you are available to help.
Margaret Lloyd Policy Director Scenic Texas Inc 3015 Richmond Ave. #220 Houston, TX 77098 713-533-9149 ext. 14 713-898-2819 mobile www.scenictexas.org *************************************************************** Subj: Re: Austin/Hill Country help Date: 8/7/2007 To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Transportation Commission
Do either of you have the name and contact information for the members of this commission? *************************************************************** Subj: Re: Austin/Hill Country help Date: 8/7/2007 7:03:55 AM Central Standard Time From: email@example.com
Thanks, it's in the email below under number 4.
1. Please forward this to anyone you know.
2. Contact your state senators and reps to urge them to express their opposition to the TXDOT commissioners on this possible change.
3. Attend the Aug. 23rd TXDOT Commission meeting if you can.
4. Write letters to the TXDOT Commissioners:
Ric Williamson, Chair Hope Andrade, Commissioner Ted Houghton, Commissioner Ned S. Holmes, Commissioner Fred Underwood, Commissioner
AT: Texas Department of Transportation 125 East 11th Street Austin , Texas 78701
Note: The Commissioners do not receive emails
Please see suggestions for talking points and Lisa Falkenburg's revealing Houston Chronicle article below:
1. Safety. We understand there has been no publicly funded study that shows electronic LED billboards are safe. We urge you to refrain from relying on industry-funded safety studies.
2. Condemnation costs. Taxpayers already pay for the condemnation or relocation of thousands of billboards. When a highway is widened, how much more will we have to pay for the condemnation of an electronic billboard that cost about $450,000 each to build? Why would we allow even one to go up?
3. This is a beautiful state that we continue to cover in commercial advertising. Public opinion polls repeatedly show that Texans have had enough of billboards. An April 2007 poll showed 86% of Texans thought we had enough or too many.
4. This is contrary to the TxDOT stated goal of building safe, efficient transportation systems. In fact, what do electronic LED billboards have to do with a transportation system?
5. Energy waste. In May, a syndicated column by Neal Peirce revealed that electronic billboards "consume 4,800 watts of electrical power per square yard per hour."
Houston Chronicle Article Aug. 2, 2007, 8:38PM THEY COULD HAVE WAITED TO DILUTE HIGHWAY BEAUTIFICATION by Lisa Falkenberg
They could have waited a bit longer, really. Out of respect, and out of caution.
Just two weeks ago, following Lady Bird Johnson's death, I wrote about the part of her vision that was never truly realized: the beautification of our highways.
The column recounted how she fought to pass what became a toothless, starter-version of the federal Highway Beautification Act in 1965, hoping to strengthen it in later years, only to be thwarted by a powerful outdoor advertising lobby that worked to water down the law to the point that some would argue it favors billboards over natural landscapes.
Now, here comes the latest blow: item 6a(4) on the state transportation commission's upcoming agenda: a lot of technical jargon indicating it will consider further weakening Texas' version of the federal beautification act.
The commission will consider whether to allow digital billboards on Interstate and federal-aid highways. If you haven't seen one, these electronic monstrosities, powered by light-emitting diode (LED) technology, are the newest frontier in the $5 billion outdoor advertising industry.
With a new image every four to 10 seconds, they promise to light up our highways with computer-controlled images as crystal clear as giant plasma TV screens.
Many states, including California, Florida and Oklahoma, already allow them on federal highways.
Billboard foes, chiefly the Washington-based group Scenic America, claim those states are violating the beautification act and subject to the penalty of losing 10 percent of their federal highway funding. The Federal Highway Administration is studying the legal issue, but hasn't weighed in yet.
The glitzy signs remain relatively rare, making up only 500 of the of the nation's estimated 450,000 billboards, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Digital signs on state and local roads are regulated by those governments, not the federal beautification act.
Changing the law
Texas transportation officials have labored over the issue for more than a year, under pressure from industry representatives, particularly Lamar Advertising, to allow the new technology.
In March 2006, a Texas transportation official wrote the Federal Highway Administration, asking if it could allow digital signs on federal highways. The feds said no, citing a 1972 Texas state-federal agreement, under the beautification act, which prohibits signs "illuminated by any flashing, intermittent or moving light."
Thirty-six states have similar provisions, according to the highway administration.
But the billboard bullies didn't like that answer, so they set about trying to change the 35-year-old federal-state agreement. Such changes are rare, as Callan noted: In the past 15 years, agreements have been amended with only two states: Nevada and Oregon.
Still, Texas is trudging ahead.
On Aug. 23, Texas transportation commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to propose changes to the administrative code that would allow digital billboards.
Transportation department spokesman Mark Cross said he could not provide a copy of the proposed changes, as exact language is still being drafted. If the commission approves the agenda item, the proposed changes would be posted for public comment in the Texas Register before they could become law.
Respect for Lady Bird Johnson aside, there's another reason for Texas to proceed with caution on digital billboards: Nobody knows for sure if they're dangerous to drivers.
They are, after all, built to distract. Lamar describes the technology as alluring to travelers and "nearly impossible for them to ignore." Clear Channel touts them as targeted advertising that "consumers can't mute, fast forward or erase."
Studies have drawn different conclusions on the distraction issue, although the outdoor advertising association would have you believe the issue is resolved.
It recently posted on its Web site what it calls "conclusive evidence" that traffic accidents aren't more likely in the presence of digital billboards.
Of course, the "ground-breaking" studies were both funded by the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education.
The real experts, the folks at the Federal Highway Administration, haven't decided yet.
The agency is about to embark on a congressionally funded study of whether digital billboards pose a dangerous distraction to drivers.
At least one state, Rhode Island, has stopped issuing permits for digital billboards until the study is done, likely in 2009.
So, what's the rush? Texas should put the brakes on digital billboards. It would be a sign of common sense, if not respect.
#3. "RE: Electronic LED Billboard Threat in Texas" In response to Reply # 0 Thu May-17-12 07:40 AM by GreatWhite-BH
I have seen LED lights in retail stores that give lots of light and use very little power.My tank is planted with real plants and I wonder if those LED lights cover the whole light spectrum needed for the plants to thrive.