Here’s a story about something that frustrates and even angers a lot of you. We know that because you’re telling us on our curiosity webpage.
We’re talking about mile markers on state highways, hundreds of them, going up every 2/10ths of a mile. We investigated this issue once before, but because so many of you have declared your curiosity about it, we’re following up.
Ken from Marlboro asks: “Why is the state wasting money on mile marker signs?”
And Carol from Templeton cuts to the chase and says: “Someone is making a lot of money on this, and I’d like to know who.”
There are 3 Massachusetts companies that won the contracts for the job of making and installing the mile marker signs all over the state. They are Liddell Brothers, Inc., Visi Flash Rentals and Roadsafe Traffic Systems. The total price tag is $1.7 million. The purpose of the signs is to tell you exactly where you are in case your car breaks down or you have an accident.
Our David Wade went for a ride with Dennis Cormier, who also wrote on our curiosity webpage about his disgust at seeing mile markers go up every 2/10ths of a mile. Dennis says if he broke down the signs wouldn’t really help him, especially on Rt. 2 where he often drives at night, because, he says, there are no lights.
“There’s always something they could spend that money on that’s probably more productive than these signs,” he said.
The money to pay for all the mile makers is not coming from state coffers, but from a Federal fund dedicated to safety improvements. But a lot of you tell us you don’t think mile markers are a good way to spend tax money, state or federal.
“Don’t I pay federal taxes?,” asks Dennis Cormier. “I pay a lot of federal taxes,” he says, answering his own question.
David Wade took some of the viewer complaints we’ve received about mile markers to the woman in charge; Luisa Paiewonsky, the Massachusetts Highway Commissioner.
He read her a couple of viewer comments: “Whose bright idea was this?” “Which rocket scientist at Mass. Highway came up with this idea?”
Wade asked: “Maybe this means it wasn’t such a good idea, the fact that so many people are outraged by it.”
“I think most people were not aware of mile markers’ role in highway safety,” answered Paiewonsky.
“I view them as akin to insurance. We all grumble about insurance payments, but when you need one, you really need it,” she says.
She says there have been incidents on Massachusetts highways where a car has broken down and the driver went walking down the road to find a sign to figure out his location. There were no markers, and drivers have been injured and even killed as they walked. The way the markers are being installed, you’re never far from one.
Even though it’s only a small part of the overall budget, spending all that money really bugs people. There are even some of you who say this is a big money maker for a few sign companies.
“We are paying some sign companies to do it,” says Paiewonsky. “There’s no conspiracy about it. They’re all publicly procured,” she adds.
Mass. Highway could have used the money for other safety work like guardrails or fixing a dangerous intersection, but decided the markers were more important.
Dennis Cormier doesn’t agree.
“Spend it where it’s needed most. It’s not needed most with these signs every 2/10ths of a mile,” he argues.
And in these tough economic times it’s not always easy to be the highway commissioner.
“That’s right, and that’s ok. That comes with the territory,” says Commissioner Paiewonsky. But somehow, we’re sure she hasn’t heard the last of this.
What do you think? Go to our curiosity webpage and let us know.
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