Going Crazy With "Overhead Wires" Warnings

Is the following local to here (Eastern Massachusetts) or is everybody seeing it, and if so why is it happening?

Over the last two years a lot of highway orange warning signs have popped up saying “Overhead Wires”. And in many places where wires cross over the highways they have been putting bright yellow jackets over them. This is appearing on interstate highways (i.e. Rte 95) as well as major state routes (Rte 2 here)

There are some odd things about it;

  • In many places the crossing wires are ridiculously high above the highways. No real vehicle could ever hit them.
  • In some places there are highway signs hanging lower over the highway then any wires. And bridges are lower still.
  • In some places there don’t even appear to be any wires.

It does seem more prevalent in sections where highway repair or construction is going on, but otherwise I am not aware of any rash of accidents involving vehicles hitting low hanging wires that could have prompted such steps. I would have to guess some Federal Funding law or Highway Code has kicked in that is driving this.

But does anyone have the Straight Dope on why this is happening?

The warnings are not for ordinary drivers, they are for the equipment operators doing the construction work. Paving is a moving operation - the paving machine pushes a dump truck whose dumper stays up until it’s empty. The truck driver is watching signals from the paving crew in his rearview and is not necessarily looking ahead. you can see the potential problem, especially during nighttime work.

I’ve recently started seeing them here in California, but only where work is being done.

WTF is a “Federal Funding law” and how could it possible affect the placement or number of signs?

They’re not there for you. They ARE for “real vehicles” :smiley: which are involved in construction, moving equipment from site to site, etc.

They’re there to warn the operators of road building equipment. Dump operators, excavators, etc.

[quote=“purplehorseshoe, post:4, topic:665633”]

WTF is a “Federal Funding law” and how could it possible affect the placement or number of signs?
Bills (Laws) are passed by the Congress enabling funds for States to use for infrastructure projects, and in the case of highways may require adherence to standards.

I’ve been seeing them in Ca for quite a few years, in the vicinity of construction areas.

They would be useful even if the wires are high up, for vehicles like tall cranes.

I haven’t seen wires with jackets on them, though. Wires often have large floats on them, to make them visible from airplanes.

Possibly they are there for helicopters. Here in Colorado (and I’m sure many places) we have red balls on electrical wires strung through canyons so that the presence of wires is visible to helicopter pilots.


Former construction inspector (including highway paving), here. Post #2 and 5 nailed it.

There are “Overhead Wire” signs on Route 95 in North Attleboro, MA where they really are low-hanging; to such an extent it cause a big problem a year ago.