SPICEWOOD — As the Texas Department of Transportation mulls a request for higher billboard allowances, some residents in Burnet and Travis counties are worried about driving dangers and the obstruction of Hill Country views if the proposal passes.
TxDOT received a request from the advertising industry to raise the billboard limit from 42½ feet to 65 feet.
“Research demonstrates that drivers have a better chance at seeing the signs when they’re at 65 feet,” TxDOT spokeswoman Becky Ozuna said.
The state agency has given the public a chance to comment before the TxDOT board makes a decision.
“Written comments can be submitted through July 14,” she said. “We are taking all comments into consideration.”
Denise Roeder, who has a home just off Texas 71 on Lake Travis, believes the billboards pose a roadway safety threat.
“Driver distraction is the leading cause of vehicle crashes and near-crashes,” Roeder said, citing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The principal cause of the crashes and near-crashes are cell-phone use and looking at objects … outside the vehicle like a billboard.”
Marti Pogue, who lives seven miles east of Marble Falls on RR 1431 near Smithwick, believes a billboard on a neighbor’s property creates a nighttime light issue as well as puts motorists at risk.
“Until we protested, it shined lights into my bedroom windows at night. It detracts for anyone who comes to our property,” she said. “The reason they widened the road in front of our home, there was a lot of accidents. It’s still pretty dangerous. When you come around the curve, you immediately see that sign.”
Roeder also expressed concerns about the pace at which the signs have appeared in 2014.
“In the last couple of months, the signs are multiplying. They’re double-stacked, and some of them actually repeat,” she said. “It’s bad enough the lakes are low. Now we have all these people with these signs. There’s other ways they can advertise.”
She counted 40 billboards in unincorporated areas along Texas 71 from Serena Hills to the Pedernales River Bridge in western Travis County.
In eastern Burnet County, where Pogue lives, she said clusters of about a half-dozen signs have appeared within the past several years between her property and Lago Vista and Jonestown.
“It’s turning it into an urban center, which we’re trying to escape from some of that by being out away from Austin. And it destroys the natural beauty. You don’t see the stars when the lights are around,” Pogue said.
The proposal is expected to be voted on in August. If approved, the billboard height allowance would take effect in September. To send public comments, go to www.txdot.gov, call (512) 463-8588, or write or visit the TxDOT office at 125 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701.
Roeder said she fears more accidents because of growing residential developments in the area and a new middle school set to open soon.
“You’re looking up. Somebody could walk across the street and get hit. They’re on the curve. Driving involves constant coordination,” she said. “We need legislation to either prevent these billboards or have some regulations so they’re not just popping up all over.”