Modernizing doesn’t mean additional billboards will go up

February 22, 2013 

Re: “Digital signs on state highways? Don’t go there” (editorial, 2-7).

The editorial misrepresents what the legislation would do and the true benefits digital signs bring to local commun-ities.

The legislation being considered in Olympia allows local communities to modernize billboards along state highways. This allows Washington cities to decide if the benefits of digital signs – helping local advertisers, enhancing public safety and providing new revenue to the city – makes sense for our communities.

More than 450 cities, including Kent and Tukwila, already benefit from digital signs, and this legislation simply gives cities in our state – a technology hub for the world – the ability to leverage the latest technology to benefit their community.

One key area you mentioned was traffic safety. Contrary to your editorial, digital billboards enhance traffic safety and have never been found to pose safety issues after many studies have been published on the subject. National, state and local governments all over the country use digital signs to promote traffic safety through anti-drunken driving campaigns and against texting and driving.

Your opinion is the view of a very small minority of Puget Sound residents who don’t like billboards regardless of the benefits they bring, digital or otherwise. In reality, cities, businesses, law enforcement and community groups like digital billboards. It is one of the most affordable and effective ways to reach a community.

Whether we are talking about helping Washington businesses sell their products or services or helping law enforcement by posting Amber Alerts or FBI wanted messages, digital signs enhance public safety and help local businesses grow and hopefully create jobs.

You also misrepresent that allowing new digital signs means more signs on our roadways. Modernizing doesn’t mean more. Actually, we have worked with cities in Washington and across the country to bring new digital signs while removing traditional billboards in exchange. For example, we removed five traditional billboards in Tukwila when we launched the new digital sign last month. That story is true for cities across the country.

Your characterization that these signs are bright and distracting is a common error. Digital billboards are static signs that look like traditional signs, but change every eight to 10 seconds in a seamless way. There are no moving images or blinking lights.

Digital signs can unlock greater advertising options and empower cities, nonprofits and law enforcement to instantly communicate messages to the public, but are not a distraction.

Most Washington residents care about their jobs, the economy, education and health care, but when presented with the benefits digital billboards deliver, most people are supportive of policies that allow reasonable use of digital billboards and keep Washington at the technological forefront.

This legislation in Olympia is a reasonable policy to balance progress with aesthetics while helping our recovering economy.

Pam Guinn is president of the Seattle/Tacoma offices of Clear Channel Outdoor.

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