Before the fatal tragic pileup on Interstate 75 that cost eleven people their lives, state troopers had put mobile warning signs on standby, because smoke from a nearby wildfire was threatening to engulf the interstate.
If digital signs had been in place, they could have warned drivers of the dangerous road conditions ahead.
After the tragedy, state lawmakers acted fast. Within weeks, two million dollars was put in the state budget to buy permanent digital signs for I-75.
Two million dollars could buy as many as eight signs, but before the Department of Transportation can put them up, they’ll first have to pinpoint the most smoke and fog prone locations which could take all summer.
The state is already in a dangerous wildfire season and according to the Florida Forest Service, it could get worse. The season peeks in May, June and July.
When winds shift, smoke can envelop a road in minutes. According to the FDLE report, detailing the events, troopers decided to reopen the interstate when they could see a half mile up the road.
Thirty minutes later, as cars began to pile up, visibility had dropped to three feet.
DOT is still working out the detail of the sign placement study with FSU and UCF. The department won’t have money for the study or the signs until July when Florida’s new budget goes into effect.