TRAFFIC INBOX: Interstate message boards inconsistent?

By Chuck Henson, Real Time Traffic Expert
Last Updated: Monday, February 05, 2018, 11:30 AM EST

Real Time Traffic on Spectrum Bay News 9 is the most comprehensive look at the roads you can get before you leave the house.

But once on the road, many drivers rely on the overhead message boards for information on what's ahead.

Matthew Leonard is a road warrior who travels between Tampa and Orlando on a regular basis for his job. He relies on the overhead message sign on the interstate to make smart decisions on his route.

"But I've noticed that whenever there's a Silver Alert or some kind of other message, that they do not display the traffic information in the Tampa area," he said.

He said Interstate 4 at U.S. 27 in Davenport is one of those spots. If the message board there doesn't warn him of the traffic jam ahead, he loses valuable time, when he could have gone another way.

Leonard said that in Central Florida, their signs do double duty.

"Orlando, in that area they display the alerts and then they cycle it with traffic information, so you can still get important traffic information or know if you need to take an alternate route," he said.

He'd like to see the Tampa information be more reflective of the way Orlando does it.

Real Time Traffic Expert Chuck Henson checked with the Florida Department of Transportation's Kris Carson about how information is prioritized on the overhead message boards.

"Silver alerts are posted on every-other dynamic message sign (DMS) so drivers can always get traffic information at the next DMS," Carson said. "There is a priority system that shows what types of messages are displayed."

Top priority is given to crashes or heavy delays ahead. After that come urgent messages like Amber or Silver Alerts. That's followed by travel times for the road you're driving.

As for Orlando running multiple messages on the same sign, Carson said that state protocol says no more than two pages of information is the state-wide limit for the boards.

There are some larger boards on the Central Florida expressway, but those would be the exception.