Obstacles to Billboard Removal

CED-78-38: Published: Feb 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1978.

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The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 encouraged States to control outdoor advertising according to national standards and provided for the forfeit of 10 percent of Federal highway funds for noncompliance. The Act exempts signs which are located on-premise or in zoned and unzoned industrial and commerical areas and meet State permit requirements as to size, lighting, and spacing.

Since the Act's passage, States have reported removing about 440,000 signs at a cost of about $82 million to the Federal Government. Illegal signs were removed with relative ease, but only about 78,000 of 298,000 signs which were legal but did not comply with State laws passed after the Federal act were removed as of March 31, 1977. It could take an additional 21 years to remove all these nonconforming signs and could cost over a billion dollars. Objectives of the program may not be reached because of lack of support, legal complexities, the numerous exemptions, and differences in State and local rules. The most significant exception to the sign removal law is for signs that are on premises. Zoning has a significant effect on highway signs because areas are often zoned for commercial or industrial use even though they have not been developed for these uses.

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  • budget icon, source: GAO

    State and Local Governments' Fiscal Outlook:

    2019 Update
    GAO-20-269SP: Published: Dec 19, 2019. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 2019.

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