The emergency call boxes that dot local highways, a symbol of reassurance to motorists worried about being stranded, may become a relic.
Merced County transportation officials said Wednesday that they are considering hanging up the service, which has provided users with a 24-hour direct link to the CHP since 2000.
“With the prevalence of cellphones today, the call box program has become nearly obsolete” Marjie Kirn, executive director of the Merced County Association of Governments, said in a news release. “As such, we are proposing that all call boxes in the county be removed and alternative uses for the funding ... be explored in order to provide our communities with a greater benefit.”
The association will hold a forum Tuesday to gather public opinion on the matter. The 6 p.m. meeting will be at the Los Banos Community Center, 645 Seventh St.
Of the 88 call boxes in the county, 70 are found on Highway 152 and Interstate 5 near Los Banos, association spokeswoman Stacie Dabbs said.
The call box program is a joint project of the association, the state Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol, according to a news release.
88Number of call boxes in Merced County
Dabbs said the aging phone system uses the same technology as cellphones. Given that the system needs to be updated, transportation officials are mulling whether the money would be better spent elsewhere.
This program has been funded through a $1 per year fee as part of vehicle registration fees in Merced County, the release states.
A recent amendment to regulations allows the money to be used in other ways, according to transportation officials. That could include technology and software meant to improve the safety of motorists, other transportation management services, and the removal of safety-related hazards and obstructions.
Residents who wish to attend Tuesday’s meeting and need to request translation services or special accommodations for disabilities are asked to call Eva Garibay at 209-723-3153, ext. 301, at least three days prior.
For more information, go tot www.mcagov.org.