Curious: Why Spend Money On So Many Mile Markers?WBZ

There are hundreds of small signs springing up on state highways right now, and many drivers want to know why, especially since the economic times are so tight.

Gary from Wrentham posted this question on our Curiosity Web site: “What brain storming took place during our financial woes to decide to install mile markers every 2/10ths of a mile?”

And Andrew from Lakeville adds: “What purpose do they serve and what is the cost?”

David Wade hit the road to find out.

We’re talking about the relatively small signs you can see along the side of the road. Sometimes they’ll tell you what highway you’re on along with a mile listing like “mile 136.2,” and sometimes they just show a mile number.

“For miles and miles and miles these signs go on and on an on,” says Roland Byam, who commutes from Bellingham to his job in Fall River.

He thinks installing the signs every 2/10 of a mile is “overkill.”

The state Highway Department is putting up the mile markers all across the Commonwealth. The price tag for this year is $1.7 million.

As the Mass. Highway Commissioner, Luisa Paiewonsky is responsible for the markers. We told her about the many complaints we received.

“I think they’re noticing them because they’re new,” she says. “They’re quite common in other states,” she adds.

What are they for?

Paiewonsky says if you don’t have GPS they’ll help you figure out your location in case you have an accident or breakdown, so the police can find you faster.

“Drivers who know exactly where they are are safer because they’re able to summon help much more quickly,” says Paiewonsky.

Having the signs so close together means you won’t have to go walking around looking for signs.

“We have had pedestrian fatalities on interstate highways, people getting out of their cars and trying to walk back and find the nearest overhead signs,” says Paiewonsky.

But Roland says he doesn’t need the marker signs to know where he is.

“People have cell phones. The highways have very good signage. I assume most people know what highways they’re driving on,” he says.

The money for the signs comes from the federal government and can be used only for safety improvements, not for repairs. They did consider using the money on things like lane markings, guard rails and drunk driving education, but they went with the signs.

“I think it’s an important safety investment,” says Paiewonsky.

But drivers like Roland aren’t buying it.

“The sign companies must be making a lot of money out of this,” he says.

Decide for yourself the next time you’re on the road. And then let us know by participating in the online poll you can find on this page.

© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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