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O’Fallon lawmaker defends bill to dump the puns on MoDOT highway signs

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Those dynamic messaging signs you’ve seen driving around the region? They’re placed to offer real-time traffic updates. They’ve been around for 10 years but as more have popped up in the last five years, so have the puns in the messages.

A Missouri politician wants to do away with the puns and has introduced a bill to do so.

State Representative Tony Lovasco (District 64) insists he’s not a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“I get what MoDOT is trying to do; it’s a marketing thing. I don’t object to the effort here,” he said. “I just think they could use these displays to provide some information when people are stuck in traffic they can know to get off cause there’s an exit two miles ahead.”

The bill is called HB1779 but the proposed Missouri legislation from the O’Fallon lawmaker wants to change the messages motorists are seeing.

“The messages themselves don’t bother me. What bothers me is we spent $20 million erecting these boards,” Lovasco said. “They were promised to the taxpayers as ways to increase public safety.”

Lovasco wants to make sure the signs stick to the facts.

“We’re just taking the opportunities to use that downtime to remind motorists of relevant safety messages and we try to wrap in some humor or wittiness to engage with them and get their attention,” said Jon Nelson, Missouri Department of Transportation.

Perceptive drivers have paid attention and even submitted suggestions to the state.

“It’s really in those times when the signs would be blank that we are sharing these messages,” Nelson said.

Lovasco wants the signs to stick to traffic warning regulations, routing, and management.

“If you’re going to take my eyes off the road to tell me a joke about keeping my eyes on the road? Probably not the most effective way to use those signs,” he said.

The 2020 legislative session convenes January 8 in Jefferson City.

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