California bill would tap highway message signs for road revenue

August 1, 2018

Keith Goble


Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law one year ago a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding deal to benefit state and local roads, trade corridors, and public transit. The governor has said the tax and fee increases are necessary to address a $130 billion backlog in deferred road maintenance.

As of Nov. 1, 2017, the new law increased the diesel tax by 20 cents and raised the gas tax by 12 cents. Other vehicle fees in the deal went up Jan. 1, including an increase from 4 percent to 5.75 percent in sales tax applied to diesel purchases.

To further eat into the funding gap, the California Assembly recently voted unanimously to endorse a plan that could raise $500 million annually for each billboard classified as a digital billboard. The revenue could be applied for road work in the state.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, the bill would convert the state’s signage definition from static signs to include digital billboards.

AB3168 would also clarify and limit what can be considered as a landscaped highway. The change would permit existing billboards to be relocated along highways.

The digital billboards would also be taller than existing billboards.

State and federal law are set up to protect landscaped areas along highways. Changes to allow affected digital billboards in the Golden State would also require federal approval.

Failure to enforce federal law could result in the loss of 10 percent of federal highway funds. California receives $3.5 billion annually from the feds, which equates to the possibility of losing out on $350 million for failure to comply with the federal billboard rule.

AB3168 awaits further consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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