New warning signage finally appears on highways crossing Payne’s Praire


New signage on U.S. 441 on the rim of Payne’s Prairie (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)

More than 3 years after 11 people lost their lives in multi-vehicle pileups on a foggy and smoky Interstate 75 near Gainesville, transportation officials are finally adding and testing new signage to help prevent a similar tragedy.

In addition to the electronic signs, the Florida Department of Transportation has also installed poles on both U.S. 441 and I-75 which will hold a variety of technology including cameras for closed-circuit television as well as fog and weather sensors.

The city of Gainesville’s traffic operations center will monitor the cameras and sensors. As conditions warrant messages will be relayed to the electronic signs.  The work was originally supposed to be completed in late spring.

The signage comes after series of accidents on January 29, 2012 which occured when smoke from a wildfire on Payne’s Prairie became mixed with fog reducing visibility to nearly zero.  Eleven people died in the pileups and nearly two dozen were hospitalized.

Earlier posts:

Highway Patrol reacts to pressure on the agency since I-75 crashes

Aired on WUFT on February 1st, 2012

Cars braking during dense smoke on Interstate 75 on the night of the multi-vehicle accident (photo by UF student Ronny Herrera)

The Florida Highway Patrol has been under fire since Sunday’s multi-vehicle pileups on Interstate 75.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating whether the highway patrol made the right decision to reopen I-75 after the roadway experienced periods of heavy smoke early that morning.  In all eleven people died in the fiery crashes and nearly two dozen were taken to hospitals.  Florida’s 89.1, WUFT-FM’s Donna Green-Townsend talked with Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Pat Riordan  about the latest on the accident investigation and the current mood of the officers who work for the patrol.

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Redirected traffic on US 441 the night following the I-75 pileup
Redirected traffic on US 441 the night following the I-75 pileup (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)


 Links to original stories (audio and video) on the I-75 tragedy below:

Smokey conditions continued throughout the day on US 441 following the I-75 tragedy
Smokey conditions continued throughout the day on US 441 following the I-75 tragedy (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)
Low visibility once again shuts down both lanes of U.S. 441 and I-75 in parts of Alachua County (January 29th, 2012)
While forestry crews fight muck fire, others recall night of crash (January 30th, 2012)
I-75 report outlines the minute by minute details of the events leading up to fatal I-75 crashes (April 26th, 2012)
In the wake of the I-75 tragedy motorists will soon see improved signage (April 26th, 2012)