The bad idea that refuses to go away

Out of home advertising on overhead highway direction signs.  The bad idea that refuses to go away.  Texas Department of Transportation proposed something in 2016.  Other people are making suggestions as well.  See this email to US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao:

And here’s the US Department of Department of Transportation’s response.

 

Insider’s take:  Glad the US Department of Transportation is against this bad idea.  Insider opposes advertising within the federal right of way for three reasons.

  • It threatens state highway funding.  The federal government prohibits advertising on federal rights of ways. Any State which runs advertising on public safety signs must obtain federal signoff or face loss of federal highway funds. Both are bad options; the Federal Highway Administration should retain its longstanding policy to prohibit ads within the right of way.
  • It smacks of hypocrisy and self-dealing.  Freeway advertising is bad except if we are getting paid seems to be the message.  Insider thinks that any State which has stringent outdoor regulations and permits advertising on state public safety billboards is asking for a lawsuit by disadvantaged private billboard companies.
  • It creates free speech issues and disputes.  Several states have tangled with free speech issues in their Adopt-a-Highway programs.   Volunteers who pick up litter along highways are recognized as sponsors on Adopt-a-Highway signs on the public right of way.  In 2012, Georgia denied a Klan group’s application on grounds that the Adopt-a-Highway program is for “civic-minded organizations in good standing.”  Rejecting that reasoning, Georgia Courts  said viewpoint-based discrimination was not allowed under the Georgia Constitution.

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