Reporting a Defective Traffic Signal: FAIL

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume you wanted to report a defective traffic signal near Poughkeepsie, NY. You know, from previous experience, that it’s on a New York State Road, so you should contact the New York State Department of Transportation; you also know that you’re in DOT Region 8 and that you’re in the Poughkeepsie Residency, so you can find the right DOT branch.

In this day and age, you might think the NYSDOT website would have a conspicuous link to a form that would let you report a problem. But, no.

Failing that, you might think the website would have a link to the number you should call. But, no.

Failing that, you might think that the search box would turn up useful results when fed the obvious keywords. But, no.

Failing that, you might think calling various likely numbers in the Region 8 offices would produce the proper number. I won’t list the half-dozen numbers I’ve uncovered using that method, as none of them actually go to the right place.

It is common for such numbers within NYSDOT to ring forever, regardless of the time of day or day of week. I am told that one number isn’t actually within DOT any more, so some poor schlub gets all their repair calls; it’s probably worse than having Rachael call you every day or two.

My favorite dead end: an answering machine message telling you it’s not monitored and calls will not be returned, then giving an incomprehensible number-to-call and the usual “Leave your name and number after the beep” message, then beeping.

To make a very long story very short, the Galactic Number that you call to report traffic signal problems on NYS DOT roads is:


It’s not toll-free (not a big deal in this day and age, but, still) and, of course, you’ll get a contractor, so be polite & patient. Your call should generate a work order that will, in due time, dispatch a crew to repair the offending signal.

It will be exceedingly helpful if you can report the number on the side of the signal control box, for which Google Streetview may reveal what you can’t see from any legal or safe position:

Signal Control Box ID by Google Streetview
Signal Control Box ID by Google Streetview

If you want to report a pothole, on the other hand, they’ve got a hotline for that:


Who’d’a thunk it?

4 thoughts on “Reporting a Defective Traffic Signal: FAIL

  1. I was pleased when I wanted to report a road maintenance issue down here in Virginia. The web site had a form where I could describe the issue and location. I got a polite email back a few hours later, saying it was assigned to the Hillsborough division (which is, as far as I can tell, the right division). I’m having somewhat more trouble telling the local phone company that a large tree branch is now being supported by their fiber optic cable.

    1. a large tree branch is now being supported by their fiber optic cable

      Yup, if it hasn’t failed yet, it’s not a problem…

      Had some of that here, too, when I pointed out a similar situation after a storm. I’ll give ’em some slack, because plenty of other folks had problems at the same time, but “We’ll send someone right out” stopped being reassuring after a week or so…

      1. Sure enough, you’re right. They said “the landowner” is responsible, they only come out once the cable has actually broken. This rather explains their legendary “reliability”.

      2. I’m happy to live in the country. The last traffic signal is state owned (just leaving town), and I have nothing to worry about for 35 miles or so. OTOH, it’s a challenge to note the turnoff to our town from the state highway at night. Oregon DOT gripes mightily about damage from studded tires (lots of ice on the roads east of the Cascades), but they do a good job keeping the roads working, mercifully.

        Pacific Power contracts with Trees Inc. to keep the power lines clear. Their pruning is more aggressive than pretty, but we almost never lose power during storms (so long as somebody doesn’t crash into a pole). The telephone landlines are underground for individual service, and only surfaces when it runs along the highways. The only glitch was when the county dammed a drainage ditch/creek, plugged the culvert, and flooded the nearest telco pedestal. Arggh!

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