Tacoma Urbanist

Feb. 4, 2013 at 12:01am

Washington Legislative Bill Threatens to Place Digital Billboards Throughout Washington

Will Washington highways be inundated with digital billboards?

After failing to place digital billboards in Tacoma, the billboard industry has taken their efforts to the Washington State legislature to attempt to place them throughout the state:

Legislation that would allow digital billboards along state highways is bubbling up again in Olympia. Both the House and Senate are considering changes to state law. Each body’s transportation committee has scheduled a hearing on the measures for Tuesday.Opponents argue billboards, particularly digital signs, are visual blight.

Scenic America, a national advocacy group, sued the federal government recently, arguing that an agency’s allowance of digital signs on national highways violates the Highway Beautification Act. Supporters argue the signs expand public networks for emergency messages like Amber Alerts. The measures in Olympia state that digital-billboard owners must coordinate with government to use the boards for such messages free of charge.

In 2011, the Senate approved the measure, but it died in the House. Last fall, the city of Tacoma and Clear Channel Outdoor called a timeout on a federal lawsuit over the number and location of billboards in the city. The two-year “standstill” agreement was also intended as time for the city and the company to negotiate a billboard “consolidation” plan that would remove billboards from some parts of the city in exchange for allowing billboards in others.



If you wish to stop this threat of blightful spam on Washington's highways, please find and contact your state legislator and tell them to oppose House Bill (HB 1408) and Senate Bill (SB 5304). You can call the hotline ad submit your opinion as well by calling: 1-800-562-6000.

Here are some of the email addressed of the legislators representing Tacomans:

27th District:

Senator Jeannie Darneille j.darneille@leg.wa.gov
Rep. Jake Fey jake.fey@leg.wa.gov
Rep. Laurie Jinkins laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov


Senator Mike Carrellmichael.carrell@leg.wa.gov
Rep. Tami Green tami.green@leg.wa.gov
Rep. Steve O'Ban steve.o'ban@leg.wa.gov


comments [11]  |  posted under Tacoma


by Erik on 2/4/2013 @ 12:51am
Meanwhile, new research from Sweden show that digital billboard may be hazardous to drivers:A new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention concludes that digital billboards attract and hold the gazes of drivers for far longer than a threshold that previous studies have shown to be dangerous.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration, found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds.

A well-regarded 2006 study by Virginia Tech for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash. The study also found that nearly 80 percent of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to (within 3 seconds) of the crash.

The Swedish study’s authors reasoned that it’s not surprising that digital billboards attract greater attention from drivers: the signs are brighter, visible from greater distances, and display a constantly-changing series of advertisements. They concluded that digital billboards “have the potential ability to keep up the driver’s curiosity over an extended period of time.” Previous human behavior studies have shown that drivers are hardwired to notice bright, changing lights in their peripheral vision and to anticipate additional motion.

The Swedish government had given temporary authorization to erect digital billboards in 2009, but as a result of this and related studies the government ordered the removal of all digital billboards. Meanwhile in the United States these signs continue to go up at a rapid pace despite a growing body of evidence suggesting they pose a threat to traffic safety.

Download the Swedish study’s abstract here: www.scenic.org/storage/PDFs/eebdd.pdf

Virginia Tech Study fact sheet: bit.ly/UJ0Gre

Download the Swedish study’s abstract here: www.scenic.org/storage/PDFs/eebdd.pdf

Virginia Tech Study fact sheet: bit.ly/UJ0Gre



Voting against the proposed digital billboard expansion bill will allow legislators to support greater road safety and reduce blight in Washington State.

by Erik on 2/4/2013 @ 12:56am
More info on the bills:

Digital Billboards Will Be Approved


Right now, Washington State is considering legislation to allow
advertising-driven digital billboards to dominate our beautiful
landscape and create unsafe driver distraction — House Bill (HB 1408) and Senate Bill (SB 5304).

This change to our laws is being pushed hard
by billboard lobbyists through the guise of “emergency messaging.” If enacted this will reverse 50 years of our State’s hard-won outdoor advertising protections!

The billboard industry has asserted that “emergency messaging” is the public benefit for their receiving this highly profitable advertising opportunity.

However, Washington State’s Department of Transportation
(WSDOT) already has comprehensive emergency messaging in operation. Public messages on private billboards are unnecessary and ineffective


by JesseHillFan on 2/4/2013 @ 7:02am
Digital Billboards also contribute to the Number One threat to life on Earth which is that of anthropogenic climate change (globalized warming) by wasteful frivolous electrical power consumption though this region gets most of its power from hydroelectric sources (which will likely be much less viable in the future due to lesser glacier melt)..

by low bar on 2/4/2013 @ 3:49pm
There is no way in hell this is going to pass. Besides. It should be a popular vote issue since it infringes on public space.

After 50 years, what's the sudden rush?

Push it to the ballot in 2014.

by Jesse on 2/4/2013 @ 4:56pm
Instead of the State of Washington contemplating more billboards, why don't they stand by Tacoma and outlaw them statewide or make seriously more strenuous regulations for the entire state?  I'm sure Clear Channel can sue Tacoma and out-money them but they sure can't do that to the entire State of Washington.  Besides, if you're a city municipality, what good is the state gov't if you can't count on them to "get your back" in an instance like this?

by cisserosmiley on 2/4/2013 @ 7:50pm
I believe this bill allows municipalities to maintain their own laws regarding billboard locations.

by Jesse on 2/4/2013 @ 8:46pm
That's too bad... Maybe the state should make sweeping laws on this subject.

by tacoma_1 on 2/4/2013 @ 9:49pm
Digital billboards in Washington State are hazardous to Swedish drivers?

by Erik on 2/5/2013 @ 9:07pm


Outstanding! Many thanks to Jill Jensen, Heather Lowe, a former
advertising executive, and Mr. Ingram, from the perspective of
lighting engineers, for their excellent testimony today before the
House Transportation Committee opposing HB 1408. The Committee Chair,
Rep. Judith Clibborn, particularly thanked Jill for her testimony. You
can watch it on the following link to TVW :


If you want to skip the testimony on the 2 bills preceding HB1408 move
the cursor below the TV screen so that the number reads 41:00. (This
means that the hearing on HB 1408 started at about 4:10 pm about 40
minutes after 3:30 pm).

If you are using a smart phone/mobile app the little number slider
should be at the top of the screen.

If these links don't work for you just go to TVW's website, choose
"Recent Media" and then select "House Transportation Committee 3:30 pm
on February 5, 2013).


by Erik on 2/6/2013 @ 11:44am
Update: Feedback from a senator:

Thank you for your email about the bills which would allow
cities and towns to grant permission for digital billboards.  I have seen
examples of these on Highway 5 near Fife, and am completely opposed to allowing
more of them to be established in the state.  I find all the arguments against
it (visual blight, light pollution, traffic hazard) completely compelling, and
you can count on me to be a "no" vote when it comes before the
Thanks again, and please don't hesitate to let me know
when other issues come up that are of interest to you.
Jeannie Darneille
27th Legislative District Nancy Ryan

Nancy Ryan
Legislative Aide to
Senator Jeannie Darneille

Office: 226 John
Cherberg Building
Mail:  P.O. Box

Olympia, WA

by JesseHillFan on 2/6/2013 @ 5:13pm