A Sign of the Times
New tools help state agencies manage outdoor billboard compliance
BY YOGESH KHANDELWAL AND DAN LIGGETT
Advertising billboards, for better or worse, are part of the
American landscape. Commonly seen from our many miles
of interstates and national highways, outdoor billboards are
considered an essential marketing tool for business. While
some motorists find them informative and entertaining, others
regard them as eyesores or unnecessary distractions from the
nation’s natural beauty.
ESTABLISHING EFFECTIVE CONTROL
As the usage and popularity of outdoor billboards began to
escalate in the 1950’s, the Federal government took action to
create some basic parameters. Signed into law by President
Eisenhower, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1958 was an
incentive for states to establish control of outdoor advertising
(ODA) within 660 feet of the right of way along interstates.
States that complied received an additional one half of one
percent of their interstate construction cost in return.
Whereas this legislation sought voluntary action, the next
federal law made the controls mandatory and set punitive
measures on states for noncompliance. Signed into law by
President Johnson, the Highway Beautification Act (HBA)
of 1965 required that states provide effective control of their
billboards along both interstates and federal-aid primary
routes within 660 feet of the edge of the right of way. With
HBA’s passage, ODA effective control regulations expanded to
cover more than 265,000 highway miles.
Nearly 50 years later, the HBA has left an indelible mark on
the appearance and maintenance of the national highway
system, while significantly impacting the operations of the
Department of Transportation (DOT) in each of the 50 states.
It required states to enter into agreements with the U.S. DOT
and develop detailed regulations to assure effective control
was being maintained along all controlled routes. State laws
prompted by HBA regulate virtually every aspect of ODA