Penn Live By Matt Miller April 3, 2017
A massive digital billboard near the Eisenhower Interchange has to be removed because it violates state regulations regarding highway beautification and driver safety, a Commonwealth Court panel ruled Monday.
The problem, Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote in the state court’s opinion, is that the 57-foot-high V-shaped sign is a distraction that is simply too close to the interchange of Interstates 83 and 283 and also is visible to drivers on Route 322.
The Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising Co. took the case to court after the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation told it the sign in Swatara Township has to go. The legal battle has been going on for six years, starting right after township officials gave the company a permit to erect the sign, which began flashing its LED messages to passing motorists in March 2012.
PennDOT initially struck an accord with Kegerreis with the understanding that the sign could not be visible from any highways other that I-83 and I-283. However, the agency ordered the south face of the sign removed in December 2012 after determining the part of the billboard can be seen from ramps E and F of Route 322.
Also, PennDOT found the sign in the 4200 block of Paxton Street was illegally close to an interchange. State law bans such structures from being within 500 feet of such road junctions.
In denying Kegerreis’ appeal, McCullough found that PennDOT’s removal order is supported by the state’s Outdoor Advertising Control Act. That law sets distance requirements for roadside advertising to comply with federal rules and ensure the state doesn’t miss out on federal highway funding.
The act’s purpose, McCullough noted, is to foster the beautification of highways by curbing the proliferation of roadside advertising. The law also aims to guard against the erection of structures, such as large, flashy signs, that might distract motorists at “significant decision points,” especially busy interchanges, the judge said.