April 23, 2015
In a move to ensure that the state doesn't lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding, PennDOT announced Wednesday that it is taking over veto power for billboards on state and interstate highways that run through Philadelphia, CBS Philadelphia reports.
This reverses the policy in place since the 1970s that gave the mayor and city council the power to regulate billboards along highways that run through the city. PennDOT control now will include billboards along I-95, the Schuykill Expressway, the Vine Street Expressway, Market Street and Broad Street. Local officials will continue to regulate billboards on other highways.
Some of those who believe the new digital billboards are bad for the community are excited by PennDOT's action, viewing the ads as a sign of "blight," according to Philly.com.
PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Transatt told CBS that the move comes to avoid the state losing potentially 10 percent of its federal highway funding dollars, which would mean $150 million of the agency's annual $1.5 billion total. Officials say they have a responsibility to manage the content of the signs to avoid those funds being withheld.
Part of the reason funds could be withheld concerns the new digital signs that have been proposed by City Council, which PennDOT officials say could be a distraction to drivers.
PennDOT officials said the decision was not the direct result of recent City Council legislation to approve more digital billboards in the city, which is awaiting action from Mayor Michael Nutter.