Memorials spark Texas PR debate

AUSTIN, TX: The Texas Transportation Commission has tossed a hot PR potato back to its staff by indefinitely tabling a proposal on roadside memorials.

AUSTIN, TX: The Texas Transportation Commission has tossed a hot PR potato back to its staff by indefinitely tabling a proposal on roadside memorials.

AUSTIN, TX: The Texas Transportation Commission has tossed a hot PR potato back to its staff by indefinitely tabling a proposal on roadside memorials.

The issue came to a head this summer when highway workers in Tyler removed markers that didn't meet state criteria, upsetting families that had erected the signs to commemorate loved ones killed in traffic accidents.

While homemade signs can be poignant reminders to drive safely, they can cause safety hazards if improperly constructed, and people put themselves at risk while tending them alongside busy highways. Thirteen states already regulate memorials.

TxDOT responded to the Tyler hubbub by issuing a moratorium on removing markers while drawing up a proposal that called for standardized signs on breakaway poles that would have been placed for two-and-a-half years and then given to the families. The proposal also expanded the state's policy, negotiated in 1986 with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to allow memorials for those killed in non-alcohol-related accidents. Six other states have similar programs: Colorado, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington.

The commission gave staff little guidance for improvement after scuttling the proposal. A dozen citizens spoke out against it during an emotional public meeting the week before Thanksgiving.

Randall Dillard, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman, said he didn't know when or if the commission would revisit the issue.



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