I-Team investigates electronic highway signs

The 22News I-Team traveled to Boston to find out if we're getting what we paid for

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Buckle your seat belts, don’t use fireworks, and don’t text and drive. You’ve likely noticed those electronic signs along the highway, and maybe wondered to yourself if they’re supposed to do more.

“I think they’re a waste of money. They never work and half the time the messages are too corny to care what they say,” said Southwick’s John Tersavich.

More often than not, these signs serve as reminders, in your best Boston accent of course, to “Use Your Blinkah” and not to text and drive, but they’ve had their share of glitches too. There was that time the sign flashed F-U to oncoming cars, and the one that warned us about a days old storm that threatened to hit Boston, and then the one about traffic around Logan airport, hardly helpful to us in western Massachusetts.

The full project that includes 17 message boards and 33 accompanying cameras in our area cost you $37 million and is why the 22News I-Team traveled to Boston to talk to Highway Administrator Frank DePaola to find out if these messages are as good as it gets or if the state is just saying F-U to Western Mass.

Labor Day MassDOT Sign

The I-Team asked DePaola, “So far we’ve just had very generic signs. We’re kind of wondering, when are we going to start getting our money’s worth?”

DePaola replied, “I think the whole integrated system is still a work in progress.” He added that the signs and cameras are only part of a larger project that isn’t finished yet. “The boards are up, what we need is the second phase which is the equipment, that detects the actual travel time of the vehicles,” he said.

However, still, this Boston control room is staffed with paid employees around the clock who are monitoring the state’s traffic cameras. So again, why don’t they update our signs when there’s construction like on 291, and a sign that could warn drivers about it, or that time Mountain Road closed after a microburst and portable signs were put out rather than using the highway signs we already have.

The I-Team asked DePaola, “For these bigger incidents that happen, when mountain road closed for a few days, is there anyone tuned into that and watching that to be able to utilize those signs for something more helpful?”

DePaola replied, “Yes, we can feed that through this office and I’m disappointed that we didn’t for Mountain Road.” He admits there have been missed opportunities but assures us it will get better when Phase 2 is complete next year. He said we’ll not only see it on our signs but also have access to it on our cell phones.

“We’re hoping by this time next year most of the major routes will be covered. Once that is in, we can communicate that lesson onto the signs and provide that additional messenger input,” DePaola said.

The I-Team will be checking back in to see if your money is being spent wisely. There is a way you can see some traffic cameras from your home before you head out the door, only a couple in western Mass. are up there, but it’s something.

Here are the three MassDOT cameras in western Massachusetts. Click here to see all MassDOT Traffic Cameras

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