Q: Hi. Last year four black rectangular boxes were installed alongside the highway near the intersection of Highways 14 and 169. They appear to be signs that can display lighted messages, but I’ve never seen one in operation. Can you tell me what they are and the plan for their use?
A: When Ask Us Guy called Minnesota Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt with this question, and Arndt could be heard tapping on her computer keyboard, Ask Us Guy assumed that Arndt was hacking into the MnDOT database to retrieve information about the mysterious black boxes.
“Here it is,” Arndt said a few seconds later, “in your own publication. The Feb. 5 ‘Ask a Trooper.’”
“D’oh!” Ask Us Guy muttered under his breath. Not only had he been beaten to the punch — by two months — by a rival question-answerer, it’s also never good when a reporter asks a source to look up an answer in his own newspaper. In Ask Us Guy’s defense, “Ask a Trooper” appears in the online edition of The Free Press, and Ask Us Guy is a devotee of the print edition — which not only is chock full of useful information, it also works much better than the web page for soaking up coffee spills.
Still, while “Ask A Trooper” was faster at answering the question, Ask Us Guy promises to be more wordy.
“This came out of our ‘Toward Zero Deaths’ Steering Committee,” Arndt said.
State Patrol troopers noted that the Highway 14 bridge over the Minnesota River iced up extremely fast in some weather conditions.
“It ices up quicker than we can even get out there,” Arndt said of MnDOT salt trucks.
The electronic signs allow drivers to be warned when the bridge is slick. Two signs are on Highway 14 and two are on Highway 169, covering traffic traveling into the area from all four directions.