House Highway Bill: What Impacts Out of Home?

House Democrats unveiled their infrastructure bill June 3. Here’s what it means for out of home media:

  • Billboard regulations (Highway Beautification Act of 1965) would remain in place. Federal law requires that billboard owners and landowners be compensated if government removes billboards. (Note: the US Supreme Court is considering whether to take a case from Tennessee that says its billboard law is unconstitutional on free speech grounds).
  • The House bill would require US Department of Transportation to update the traffic-sign Manual to accommodate signs directing motorists to charging stations. (Note: commercial advertising is not allowed on highway right of way).

Background Q&A

Will the House (Democratic) bill pass?

Not in its current form.

The Senate, controlled by Republicans, passed a different bill out of committee last year. The House and Senate would have to negotiate differences, which seems unlikely before the election.

Is the House bill bipartisan?

No. It was produced the Democrats, who control the House. Republicans were not involved. They lamented their sideline status, noting that past Highway Bills have been bipartisan.

Are the House and Senate bills “environmental?”

Both bills address climate issues and promote charging stations. The House bill provides grants to build charging stations.

Will we hear plenty of talk about infrastructure?

Yes. Proponents from both parties will tout infrastructure spending as a way to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. Less traffic due to the pandemic makes road construction/repair easier and quicker, say proponents.

Behind this rhetoric is a problem:  neither Congress nor the Administration has a way to pay for road and bridge building.

(Note: the House bill would boost testing of a new way to tax road travel . . . a levy on miles traveled in lieu of taxing gas. The gas tax is outmoded because it is not indexed to inflation, engines are more efficient, and more vehicles are powered by alternate energy).