It's hurricane season and we all need to be prepared, which for some people includes generators in case a storm knocks out power.
Florida's Department of Transportation is buying generators as well, and installing them along Interstate 75 in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
"It's an insurance policy in case the power goes out," said Robin Stublen, a spokesperson for FDOT.
The insurance policy isn't cheap. Seventeen diesel generators cost FDOT just under $300,000. They'll be used to power electrical service stations if the power were to go out.
The service stations provide power to large message boards along the interstate as well as the highway advisory radio and traffic video cameras.
FDOT says the entire system is called the Intelligent Transportation System, (ITS) a $20 million project now being installed on I-75.
Stublen says the generators are essential for the ITS system; however, he concedes there may be long stretches of time before the generators are ever used.
"But when we need them, we are glad we spent that money to buy it," said Stublen.
Bill Newton, Executive Director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, understands the possible need for the generators, but questions why they were put on I-75 through Sarasota and Manatee counties.
"It seems completely arbitrary in this case, it’s hard to understand why they would do it," Newton said. "Why don't we look at the places people are likely to get stuck and are likely to need help?"
FDOT told FOX 13 that many state roads and some Tampa Bay area bridges are not covered by fixed diesel generators, and in some cases portable generators will be used to keep traffic updated and flowing.
The Gandy Bridge is one example. Motorist Joe Dudash from Sarasota believes keeping the power on and the information flowing though message boards won't be very helpful in the end.
"At least you'll have something to read when you're sitting still," said Dudash.
The new ITS project along I-75 in Sarasota and Manatee counties should be fully operational later this summer or early fall.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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