Scenic Texas, the state’s only non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our state’s visual environment, particularly as seen by the traveling public, praises the 86th Texas Legislature for passing Senate Bill 357 (SB 357).
“We are grateful to those Texas Legislators who saw the importance of protecting our scenic highways and byways, the largest public space for Texans and tourists,” said Scenic Texas Board President Margaret Lloyd. “The passage of SB 357 is indicative of the Texas Legislature’s commitment to keep drivers less distracted and more safe, while preserving the natural beauty of Texas.”
On Friday, June 14 Governor Abbott signed SB 357 authored by Senator Robert Nichols (R, Jacksonville). The bill will establish a few new parameters, including statutorily limiting all new billboards erected adjacent to federal highways to 60 feet in height. If this Bill had not passed, TxDOT would have allowed all billboards to be 85 feet tall — or 25 feet taller than SB 357 will allow. Although Scenic Texas advocated for 42.5 feet, the organization is pleased that SB 357 passed with the following two provisions included:
1. SB 357 will freeze all 20,000 existing billboards to the height they were as of March 1, 2017, or 85 feet, whichever is shorter. (According to TxDOT, approximately 98% of all 20,000 existing billboards were 60 feet or lower on March 1, 2017); and
2. SB 357 will allow TxDOT to stop any of the large billboard companies (those holding 100 or more sign permits) from obtaining a new billboard permit if any of their existing signs exceed the height limit. This is an important addition to TxDOT's enforcement options.
“We are grateful that the Texas Legislature recognized the balance between economic gains and protecting our natural resources,” said Scenic Texas Executive Director Sarah Tober. “As I recently drove through Florida on IH-10 it was amazing to me the difference in a driving experience when trees and nature are the primary surrounding versus a smattering of billboards. As a state we have to do better in protecting our scenic views and minimizing the visual pollution that is threatening our traveling public experience and safety.”
Scenic Texas also recognizes the work of Texas House Representatives Geanie Morrison (R, Victoria) and Terry Canales (D, Edinburg) for the passage of SB 357.
In addition to advocacy related to protecting scenic highways, Scenic Texas is committed to education and planning. Through the Scenic City Certification Program, Scenic Texas provides educational resources to Texas cities that are establishing or revising ordinances that impact the streetscapes. Scenic Texas also supports urban forestry projects, tree planting and preservation initiatives, the creation of scenic roads and districts, the establishment and funding of parks and green space, the forestation of our highways, and the preservation of historic areas.