Have you been driving down the highway and noticed two large antenna devices on either side of the center median? What ever could those tall strange devices be?

Well, we reached out to our man Jim Piccola from the New York State Department of Transportation to find the answers.

Initially, some thought maybe in the wake of COVID-19, "Big Brother" had installed them as a way to monitor people. That idea was and still is farfetched, but a not so crazy thought is the idea that they were designed to catch speeding vehicles in the act. Some technology now allows for cameras to detect a vehicle's speed and take a picture of the license plate belonging to the offender.

The truth is that these tall antennas are sophisticated traffic counters. Traditionally, the NYSDOT would lay a small thin strip across the roadway to get a sense of traffic volume. You remember running it over and wondering what THAT was. Now, this technological device is being used.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Piccola, NYSDOT

Piccola says, "The box Records the traffic count information. The base of the pole is the battery pack and mounted on the top is a camera." Now, just because there are cameras does not mean they are recording or monitoring individuals. Piccola says, "Once the counts are validated we don’t require the contractor to keep the video. The quality of the video is not high enough to identify individuals or anything like that. For our contracts we do not use any cameras with License Plate Readers."

So, if you happen to come across a pair of these traffic counting antennas, either along State Route 8, State Route 5s or other locations across the region, don't be alarmed. You're not being watched, you are simply being counted. Traffic counts for the NYSDOT are done on a routine basis or if there is a specific project in the works.

Piccola says, "More than likely, you will only see these on multi-lane or high speed facilities." Remember to always keep your eyes on the road and never speed in work zones.