BATON ROUGE, LA – Today, the Louisiana Motor Transport Association (LMTA) announced the first phase of a public awareness and legislative effort to rein in billboards on state highways. Enduring an insurance and workforce crisis, the trucking industry is seeking to improve highway safety and enhance quality of place in the driver’s work-space - state highways of Louisiana.
"The purpose of a billboard is to be seen by drivers. Instead of helping a motorist get to a destination, billboards in Louisiana are just trying to get and keep your attention," said Chance McNeely. "Safety is the trucking industry's top priority and something must be done to rein in billboards in Louisiana. The current dynamic is damaging to our industry and the state economy in many ways."
According to Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, anything that takes a driver’s eyes or mind off the road is considered a distraction. Billboards exist to do both. Distracted driving is a root cause of accidents that drive up insurance premiums.
In 1965, the US Congress enacted the Lady Bird Johnson Highway Beautification Act giving states authority to control and even prohibit billboards. So strong is the federal authority that four states – Alaska, Maine, Vermont, and Hawaii – prohibit billboards all-together. Louisiana is on the opposite end of that spectrum but it doesn’t have to be that way. In 1966, the Louisiana Legislature amended the State Constitution Ancillaries and the Revised Statutes to codify its federal authority, granting strong power to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and charging the Department with pursuing control measures. A series of public records requests demonstrates that DOTD has done virtually nothing except issue billboard permits for nearly 60 years.
It is estimated that Louisiana has 2 percent of the nation's highways but closer to 10 percent of the nation's billboards.
The entire billboard industry pays DOTD a combined $145,000 per year for its some 7,000 Louisiana billboards. These revenues do not cover DOTD’s cost of administering the program, meaning motorists are subsidizing the billboard industry through the fuel tax. One single Louisiana truck pays nearly $13,000 per year to use the highway system, while billboard companies pay an average of only $20 per year for each billboard.
House Concurrent Resolution 4, by Rep. Jack McFarland (R-Winnfield) modifies DOTD’s regulations to enact a moratorium on new billboard permits, along with various other provisions intended to enhance safety. This resolution also increases billboard permit fees to cover DOTD’s cost of administering a program.
Senate Bill 211 by Senate Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) is similar to HCR 4 except that is changes state law to enact a moratorium and other key provisions intended to promote highway safety and beautification.
According to Scenic America, a national non-profit that seeks to promote the intent of the Lady Bird Johnson Highway Beautification Act, every credible poll shows the American people consider billboards to be a nuisance and major creator of blight. The organization has conducted countless studies that show various negative effects of billboards in communities across America.
The legislative measures being pursued stop short of requiring removal of billboards. Billboard companies were successful in having federal law require states to pay “just compensation” for removal, thus making it very expensive for the government to remove a billboard once it is permitted. LMTA is pursuing measures that will have a real impact without costing the state money.
LMTA will unveil additional videos over the next two weeks supporting this important cause. Join our cause because it is beyond time to #TakeBackOurHighways.