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Opinions Differ Over Giant Billboard

I don't see the big deal about billboards ("Controversy Continues Over Mayo Billboard," Street Talk, Dec. 5). They don't pollute; they are a part of American culture. If they are offensive to some, they aren't necessarily offensive to all. Maybe what's needed is a little artistic creativity in the design department of the billboard ads. Why couldn't local artists' works be used with visible sponsorship by whatever company is placing the ad? That way, their name would be seen and local artists would benefit too.

F.A. Roscher

Scenic Virginia thanks you for alerting Richmond citizens about Lamar Advertising's proposed "settlement agreement," in which Lamar would take down the illegal billboard on Mayo Island in exchange for an LED/electronic billboard at the I-95/I-64 interchange near Fifth Street.

Not mentioned in the article was the issue of safety regarding the new LED billboard technology. LED billboards resemble gigantic plasma-screen TVs, and their message changes every six to 10 seconds. Unbelievably, they are brighter than the sun during the daytime and exceedingly bright at night. This means they catch the driver's eye from much farther away than regular boards, and their changing, flashing messages continue to divert the driver's attention from the road.

There are already enough concerns about LED billboards that the Federal Highway Administration -- among others — is undertaking a safety study that will be released in 2009. Until that happens, it makes all the sense in the world not to allow this technology along Virginia's roads.

Scenic Virginia is certain that Mayor Doug Wilder and the "eight of nine Council members" that Lamar claims are in support of the settlement agreement were not told about LED safety concerns or the FHWA study. It is unconscionable that Lamar would try to use our elected officials — who are dedicated to safeguarding the public — in this way.

We urge the city to proceed with caution. Richmond could be liable if accidents occur as a result of LED billboard distractions and it can be shown that the city knew about the safety concerns but allowed the deal to go forward.

Leighton Powell
Executive Director
Scenic Virginia

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