Digital signage displaying COVID-19 messages in Las Vegas
Signs normally intended to relay traffic-related information have been reversed to urge Nevada residents to be safe during the statewide shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signs typically display Federal Highway Administration-approved messages to notify motorists of road conditions, travel times, Amber or Silver alerts, traffic information during special events, or future road closures due to planned construction.
After discussions with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s operations division has begun issuing messages encouraging public health and safety amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
On March 23, NDOT began posting coronavirus-related messages on some of the 271 digital message boards on valley highways in the department’s District 1, or anywhere south of Tonopah. Messages include “Wash your hands, stay healthy, avoid COVID-19” and “Give more space with each other and on the road”, promoting social distancing.
Signage on display at Nevada ports of entry began carrying messages last weekend regarding the governor’s stay-at-home orders and 14-day self-quarantine if visiting or returning to the state .
“The priority of messages remains the same as public service announcements, so it can be replaced with more critical messages if necessary,” said Tony Illia, spokesman for the Department of Transport.
Some coronavirus-related messages could be displayed on the largest of 42 active traffic signs installed on Interstate 15 and portions of U.S. Highway 95, according to Brian Hoeft, director of the Regional Transportation Commission of the United States. highway and arterial system of southern Nevada. It hasn’t happened yet.
Some of the typical messages include: “Drive sober or get arrested” and “Driving while buzzing is drunk driving”.
To make them more newsworthy, NDOT tried to be creative with their holiday-related posts.
These messages include “A DUI will empty the pot of gold / Drive sober” on St. Patrick’s Day and “Halloween is near / Don’t be an accident dummy”.
Seeking to involve the community in the posts, the department is planning a public contest for signage posts later this year.
Traffic Light Adjustments
With orders for non-essential workers and students to stay home in Nevada until at least April 30 to help curb the spread of COVID-19, traffic volumes around the Las Vegas Valley have declined.
With this, the RTC adjusts the timing of traffic lights to compensate for the lack of drivers on the roads.
RTC technicians are in the field daily to observe intersections and make any necessary adjustments, according to Hoeft.
April is typically one of the busiest months for traffic, according to Hoeft, so the signal timing was set to reflect that. But now many traffic lights are being adjusted to reflect lower volumes.
“We would run the signal with the assumption that there would be a lot more vehicles there, say, for the morning rush hour,” Hoeft said. “Maybe now a Friday afternoon is going to behave more like a Sunday afternoon, and on Sunday we’ll time the signals to handle lower traffic volumes, and that’s what we’re looking at.”
RTC bus operators relay traffic light suggestions as they make their daily trips.
And if members of the public observe a traffic light that is taking longer than necessary, they can contact the RTC.
Motorists can submit requests on the Seeing Orange website in the leave a comment section.
“These come straight to us,” Hoeft said. “We like to hear what they see and then look at what we can do. We always welcome public feedback.