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Suit seeks to overturn Fed ruling on digital billboards

Scenic America filed a lawsuit this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn a controversial Federal Highway Administration ruling.

The ruling reversed the agency’s long-held position that barred intermittently changing commercial digital billboards.  The lawsuit alleges that FHWA has wrongfully allowed commercial digital billboards to proliferate along federal highways nationwide.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Scenic America and its members by Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation, asserts that FHWA’s 2007 guidance violates the lighting standards established under the customary use provisions of the Highway Beautification Act.

Digital billboards, brightly-lit signs with commercial ads that change intermittently every few seconds, appeared along federal highways around 2005. State transportation officials, charged with controlling outdoor advertising and following FHWA’s longstanding prohibition on intermittent commercial message lighting, turned to FHWA for additional guidance.

Scenic America claims pressure from a powerful billboard lobby to approve the signs, prompted FHWA reversed its long-held position.