Waco: City to modify billboards to ease construction-related confusion

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) With exits closed, bridges demolished, and roadways torn up, the City of Waco is trying to make it a little easier for tourist to navigate the construction on Interstate-35 so it doesn't deter them from visiting attractions.

(Photo by Clint Webb)

The TxDOT project is motivating the city to make a visible, new change to it's billboards so drivers don't change their minds about visiting the city while construction is underway.

"We want to make sure that you don't forget that we're here and everyone's open for business," said Todd Bertka, Waco Convention Center & Visitors Bureau Director.

On Tuesday night, for $104,000 (lower than the year prior), the city council renewed Waco's annual contract with Lamar to lease eight billboards along the interstate from Troy to West--billboards the city's controlled for a number of years to advertise the attractions it's responsible for.

However, past years didn't have major construction of this scale, smack dab in the epicenter of the city.

"Construction is a big problem, and that's just a part of reality," said Larry Holze, spokesman for the City of Waco. "Change is going to take some inconvenience."

The city is hoping to lessen the inconvenience on drivers, however, by modifying its billboards to make sure people know how to get to where they want to go, and don't pass Waco by due to frustration.

"We're not going to act like we're rolling over and playing dead, we're alive, we're happy, and we're loving for people to stop and get off the highway, and we're telling them how to get there," said Holze.

For now, the city's billboards will promote exit 335B as the best way to get to the best of what Waco has to offer; later, half of the signs can be re-skinned, if needed, to highlight better exits if and when construction patterns change.

"Confusion can abound even with the best of signage, and so we wanted to make sure that we had a bright, visible presence that people could quickly identify with and quickly make some conclusions that 'oh yeah, we can still hang out in downtown,'" said Bertka. "We want to make sure that we remind folks that there's an amazing destination and attractions here in Waco, and that it's still an easy exit, and we want to make sure that they take the time to come visit our attractions and our downtown which is bustling and all of that during this process."

The one positive from the construction, officials say--increased billboard visibility due to slower traffic.

"You have a little bit longer to discern 'oh yeah, I can get back downtown and go to one of the many new restaurants,'" said Bertka.

Bertka believes a little road pain now will pay off down the road.

"As hard and as challenging as it's going to be, we have to have it in order to really set ourselves up for years to come on having that accessibility and the ability to navigate through town," said Bertka.

In addition to the eight static billboards, Bertka says they're going to lease a ninth, rotating electronic billboard on I-35 S, north of Waco, to help promote six to eight lesser-known attractions the city has to offer.