Scenic Philadelphia claims city overrun with illegal billboards

Philadelphia’s home to a bounty of illegal billboards, according to a new report.  The city says it’s investigating whether more than 80 percent of billboards really do lack valid permits or fail to meet local, state, and federal regulations. 

Scenic Philadelphia’s report, “Above the Law and Under the Radar,” singles out more than 100 billboards that violate the Highway Beautification Act because they can be seen from Interstates or other key roads funded with federal dollars.

“Philadelphia, a few years after the law was passed, asked if they could be in charge of enforcing the law here and you know the state gave them permission to do that. But they were obliged to comply with the same distance requirements, size requirements and lighting requirements as everybody else,” said Mary Tracy, Scenic Philadelphia’s executive director.

So what’s the big deal?  Tracy says being close to a billboard drives down property values. “All states are supposed to comply with this law and all if they don’t, they can get a 10 percent loss of federal highway funds,” she said.

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Maura Kennedy, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, says the city is reviewing and evaluating the report. As for the funding question proposed by the report? Kennedy says at this time, “PennDOT has not given us any indication that they will reduce our funding for currently erected billboards.”

The Scenic Philadelphia report focused on billboards in the city along I-95, I-676 and I-76.  The group says it hopes the Federal Highway Administration will conduct an audit of Philadelphia’s billboards.


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