Sacramento-area highways will soon get full-color electronic signs. Here’s what they do

Caltrans this month unveiled full-color highway message boards to communicate roadway conditions to drivers that will complete testing Friday and go live during September, state transportation officials said, including in California’s capital region.

Approximately 28 signs currently read “CMS Test in Prog(ress); Ends 09/01/2023.” They dot Highway 50 in El Dorado and Sacramento counties; Interstate 5 in Sacramento County; and Highway 70 and Highway 99 in Butte County, according to a California Department of Transportation news release.

“The new changeable message signs will allow Caltrans to display reliable, real-time travel and traffic safety information using high-resolution color text and images during both day- and night-time driving conditions,” said Caltrans District 3 Director Amarjeet Benipal in a statement.

Benipal said the signs will also display pictorial messages that aim to better communicate roadway conditions to non-English-speaking drivers.

Each sign costs roughly $90,000, according to Caltrans spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan.

The new boards will supplement 79 existing changeable message in eight counties, officials said. Existing boards only display amber text, where pixels often go out and garble messages, authorities said.

State transportation officials said studies indicate changeable message signs can improve traffic flow and slow down drivers who are traveling over the speed limit in poor weather.