The Maine DOT is installing new electronic signs along the Maine Turnpike and I-295 to let drivers know travel times to points on the highway, but it makes me wonder if this is even necessary.

10 signs are being installed between the two highways. Some will show estimated time to reach a point on the highway while others points near where the Turnpike and I-295 connect, will show delays on either route allowing drivers to choose which route will get them there faster.

Maine DOT
Maine DOT

How do these signs know how much time it takes to get from point A to point B? The data is coming from driver's smartphones. Everyone using GPS software like Google Maps and Waze has their data anonymously collected. It's why when you use your GPS to travel, it tells you which route is fastest because it knows in real-time from other users. That same data will be used by these signs.

This $1.3M project aims to reduce traffic congestion, and in some cases it will, especially where I-295 on the Turnpike meet to let people know which way is faster. As for I-295 I'm skeptical.

Let's say I'm driving to Brunswick and I see the sign that says it's 10 miles away and will take me 20 minutes to get there. Okay, great. Now what? I know traffic is running a little slow, but where am I going to go? Am I really going to get off in Freeport and take Route 1 to get there? Unless there's a major accident, that won't get me there any faster. And if the delay is significant enough, everyone will be taking Route 1 and just moving the congested traffic.

Also, don't we already have electronic signs all up and down these highways that can tell us all sorts of useful things based on any situation when they aren't displaying their punny safety messages?

Let's also not forget that this works because there are a ton of people on the highway that are using the GPS on their smartphones to already get that real-time data which will automatically tell them the fastest route using that very same data. Give it another 10 years, and GPS and smartphone interfaces will likely be standard in most cars making these signs obsolete.

To me, I think that $1.3M could be better spent on fixing the actual roads we're sitting in traffic on.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.



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