NYSDOT Region 2

Correspondence With NYSDOT Region 2

Overhead Signs on Interstate 790

I often debate whether I should be so vocal about concerns I have with various NYSDOT projects, especially those in Region 2, as I aspire to work for them someday. However, I believe that motorist safety is more important so I share my observations with them. Responses from NYSDOT have always been courteous and prompt. I hope that they find my observations to be constructive and helpful.

Below in my latest e-mail to them regarding this sign assembly.

I-790 overhead

I noticed that the contractor for the overhead sign installation on Interstate 790 began installing the new signs today (29 October 2007). I've been looking forward to the completion of this contract as some of the signs were replacing signs that were removed many years ago and other signs would undoubtedly improve motorist guidance through the area.

I have a couple of comments and concerns:

1. I like the high intensity reflective sheeting used. It is a vast improvement over the sheeting used on the overhead panels with the completion of the Utica-Rome Expressway.

2. The size of the signs is excellent. The larger route markers and legend should help aid older motorists with determining their destination.

Now my concerns:

1. Why does R2 use the word "TO" so much? On this three panel overhead installation there is a "TO" for almost every marker on every panel. We have "TO WEST 49" for the left lane, "TO NORTH 8 / TO NORTH 12" for the middle lane and "TO SOUTH 8 / TO SOUTH 12" for the right lane? Isn't this a bit redundant? The word "TO" should be used for guidance to a road that leads to many destinations, including the one listed on the sign (for example, hypothetically: "NY 5 WEST, TO NY 5A", in that order) By adding "TO" to every marker on every panel, you're adding to the response time needed for the motorist to comprehend the message being conveyed. This could be critical in split-second decision making. It also makes the sign panel more expensive to manufacture and install because you're adding to the square footage of the sign. By using a route marker in conjunction with a down arrow or exit arrow there's no need to include the word "TO" as well. If the motorist takes the ramp indicated, they're not going anywhere else besides the route listed. There is no need for the word "TO" and it is not seen on any example diagrams in either the NYSMUTCD or the National MUTCD. This convention is not seen anywhere else in the state aside from in R2. Shouldn't there be consistency across the entire state?

2. The right hand panel in this installation provides guidance for I-790 WEST, NY 5 WEST, NY 8 SOUTH and NY 12 SOUTH. Unfortunately, it's listed as TO NY 8 SOUTH, TO NY 12 SOUTH, NY 5 WEST*, I-790 WEST*, in that order. There's no rhyme or reason to the ordering of the route markers. They're not numerically ordered and they're not ordered by 'hierarchy'. It should be I-790, NY 5, NY 8, NY 12. The NYSMUTCD and the National MUTCD both agree with me on this. If a motorist is looking for NY 5, they're going to see NY 8 listed first and think that must not be the ramp they need to take.
* Note: I made a mistake in my e-mail to NYSDOT, the last two markers are listed as I-790 WEST, NY 5 WEST.

3. Why is there no down arrow on the right hand panel? I understand that there is an "EXIT ONLY" on the bottom, but shouldn't it be "EXIT \/ ONLY"?

As a traffic engineering student I realize that I will notice things that normal motorists wouldn't notice. However, I believe that one important component of making our roadways safer is to use consistent, concise messages on guide signs that can be comprehended by the motorist in the fastest time possible. That's the reason that I'm studying to become a traffic engineer and I believe it's a reasonable goal to attain. By using legend as outlined by the National MUTCD (and previously the NYSMUTCD) and applying it consistently and in the same manner as the surrounding areas of the state, I believe this goal can easily be reached.

Thank you for your time.

I've redesigned the panels as I feel they would be more appropriate. Notice the 'shared' use of the cardinal directions on the middle and right panels; this is routinely done in other NYSDOT regions and cuts down on legend clutter.

I 790 overhead