Court Rules to Allow Digital Billboards


Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow the billboard industry to begin operating intermittently changing digital billboards along the public highway system. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by Scenic America seeking to overturn a 2007 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) memorandum that reversed the agency’s long-held position that barred intermittently changing digital billboards. The Court of Appeals concluded that FHWA’s interpretation of the lighting standards was reasonable under the circumstances and upheld the lower court’s decision.

In a statement released by Scenic America, the organization expressed disappointment in the recent ruling in Scenic America, Inc. v U.S. Department of Transportation. “Scenic America is disappointed in the Court's ruling and believes that billboards that change intermittently violate the critical customary use provisions of Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act, and the Scenic America legal team is considering its options,” says Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America. Scenic America further argues that the 2007 Guidance Memorandum issued by FHWA, which permits states to authorize digital billboards that meet certain requirements, failed to adhere to the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirement. 

ASLA supports efforts to manage and control billboards along our nation’s rights-of-way, particularly intermittently changing digital billboards. ASLA’s policy on Billboards and Signage states that signage including on-site, street-oriented advertising signs and billboards, can have a detrimental effect on the public realm; billboards located in otherwise pristine natural areas diminish public enjoyment of the landscape and can deface nearby scenery; improperly located signs can contribute to visual clutter, creating the potential for distracting or confusing motorists, thereby negatively impacting the health, safety, and welfare of the public; and brightly lit signs, electronic signs, and animated signs waste valuable energy, contribute to light pollution, produce hazardous glare, and are in conflict with dark sky policies. Additionally, the policy recognizes that in some very vibrant urban centers (such as Times Square), brightly animated signage is actually part of the unique sense of place and is therefore appropriate. 

Tracy has stated that Scenic America “will continue to oppose the proliferation of these bright, blinking billboards which threaten traffic safety, decrease property values, and diminish qualify of life for those who live, work, and travel in their vicinity.”

Additional Information: 

ASLA’s Policy Statement on Billboards and Signage

More background on the issue from Scenic America


Kevin Fry
Director, PR and

JR Taylor
PR Coordinator