I disagree with your editorial (Jan. 10), which opposed the relatively low-cost changeable message signs used by Caltrans to warn motorists of trouble ahead.
I supported the addition of 20 new signs on 10 Los Angeles freeways because after careful analysis I was convinced that they would serve Southern California motorists as one of the most practical and cost-effective traffic management tools available to us today.
The concept of actively managing traffic is a relatively new one--a concept put to good use during the Olympic Games with excellent results. We have learned as lot since signs were first installed on the Santa Monica Freeway in the early 1970s. One study showed that fatalities were down significantly compared to a period before the signs were in place. That is exactly what the signs were intended to do--reduce secondary accidents that results from sudden freeway pileups.
We have also learned that the signs can be farther apart that originally thought and that they are most effective when placed in advance of freeway interchanges so motorists can take an alternate route once advised of a problem. The 20 new signs have been placed at key freeway interchanges throughout Los Angeles County.
Everyday we pay the price of traffic jams. We pay in wasted time, physical and financial loss and in taxpayers' dollars spent on emergency response.
Caltrans estimates the signs will pay for themselves in the first year of use. With new freeway construction costs now as high as $100 million per mile, the changeable message signs are a bargain--a transportation alternative Los Angeles cannot afford to be without.
EDMUND D. EDELMAN
Board of Supervisors
Los Angeles County