Construction is a sure sign of spring on Massachusetts highways and this year is no different.
The state replacing thousands of highway signs at a cost of $22 million.
The state's acting highway administrator Frank DePaola is defending the spending.
"Well the cost of the signs includes the actual structure that spans the highways that hold the signs up. Those structures are approaching 40 to 50 years old. That's about the useful life of the structures," said DePaola.
The useful life of the actual signs is only 15 to 20 years, according to DePaola.
"We want the signs to have letters on them that are reflective so that in all weather conditions, whether it be rain or snow, or at night, that you can still pick up the lettering on the sign," said DePaola.
But some drivers say the old signs are not difficult to read.
"See I wear glasses and at night it's one of the toughest times to see. I've never had any problems looking at the signs at all," said Lance Simmons who commutes on Route 128 daily.
Simmons believes the roads are the real problem.
"I've had to get an alignment twice in the past eight months to a year," said Simmons. "I'd rather them fix the roads then repair signs that don't need to be repaired."
The acting highway administrator says signs as well as roads are a priority.
"Throughout the state, the highway division is doing a continuous investment into the conditions of the roads. We're repaving roads. We're replacing signs," said DePaola.
As for criticism about the cost, DePaola points out the federal government is picking up most of the tab for the new signs.
Massachusetts is paying $3.4 million while our federal tax dollars are covering the remaining $18.7 million.
"Would the state be spending all this money if the federal government weren't reimbursing it?" asked investigative reporter Mike Beaudet.
"The state would still have to spend money. Whether we would spend it at the rate we're currently spending (is the question)," said DePaola. “The fact that we can work with our federal partners and accelerate the replacement and updating of these signs is a bonus."
The state is spending a lot of money on roads and bridges this year, but much of the $931 million is going to bridges.
The state was unable to tell Fox 25 how much money it's actually spending to fix our roads.
Letter the Massachusetts Department of Transportation sent to a Fox 25 viewer:
Lance - your email to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division's Feedback System was forwarded to the District Four office for review and reply. Our mission is to provide the highest quality customer service to residents and visitors, with a focus on safety and efficiency.
I apologize for the length of time that has passed since the date of your inquiry.
The current sign upgrade project on Route I-95/128 between Lexington and Reading involves the replacement of approximately 400 overhead and ground-mounted directional, regulatory and warning signs and their associated support structures.
This $2.9 million project is being funded by the federally aided American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the improvements are part of MassDOT's ongoing program to replace the directional and traffic signs along our Interstate and freeway system on a periodic basis. The purpose of this project is to improve safety for drivers using this section of Route I-95/128 by providing new signs fabricated from the latest retro-reflective materials. These materials enable drivers to see the signs at night. We are also installing new support structures that meet current design standards for wind loading, thus reducing the possibility that MassDOT will to have to repair these structures in the future.
The existing signs along this section of I-95/128 were last replaced in the early 1990s. Based on the reduced night time retro-reflectivity, we are replacing the signs. The condition of the reflectivity of the signs is not readily apparent during the day.
The existing support structures along this section of I-95/128 were last replaced in the mid-1970s. While these supports are still in safe condition, they do not meet current design standards for wind loading and fatigue requirements. Based on this, along with economies of scale and to minimize future maintenance requirements, MassDOT elected to provide new sign supports as part of this project instead of replacing them separately at a later date.
MassDOT is finalizing the design of a $13.5 million project to rehabilitate the pavement on the section of Route I-95/128 from South Bedford Road, just north of Route 3 in Burlington, to the area near Route 38 (Exit 35) in Woburn, matching into the southerly limit of work for an ongoing resurfacing project. The sections of Cambridge Street
and Winn Street that fall within the interchange areas at Exit 33 and Exit 34 will also be resurfaced. In addition to the pavement improvements, the project will include reconstructing the existing median on Route I-95/128 to install a concrete median barrier, associated drainage modifications, and guardrail upgrades. The project is scheduled to be advertised for construction bids in early summer 2011. MassDOT recently commenced preliminary design work for a similar type improvement project that will focus on the section of Route I-95/128 from South Bedford Road in Burlington, southerly into Lexington. In the interim, MassDOT will continue to monitor the condition of the roadway in these areas and perform patching operations.
Again, I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry. Please contact me directly if you have additional questions, comments or if I can be of further assistance.
District Four Operations Engineer
MassDOT - Highway Division