Until Aug. 7, this is only a test. 

Signs along the Goldsboro U.S. 70 bypass, starting near the La Grange exit, have been exhibiting the vaguely existential notice, “Testing.” But as of Monday they’ll be used to give notice of hazards, construction, missing persons and other issues relevant to drivers.

“They’re brand new signs, so they’re just being tested” in Wayne County, according Lee Ann Norris, a spokeswoman with NCDOT.

Called emergency message boards and coming in at about $125,000 a piece, five are being placed throughout Wayne County: four on the U.S. 70 bypass and a fifth on N.C. 795.

Division Traffic Engineer Steve Hamilton of District 2 (which includes Craven County) said that when the signs are set up, they go through a 30-day test period called a burn time to make sure there are no manufacturer’s defects.

Division 4 ITS Engineer Lee Neal said the purpose of the signs are to enhance and quicken driving experiences. “The concept is, if there’s an incident in town, you can direct cars to stay on the bypass, and if the problem is on the bypass you can direct them to go through town,” he said.

“It’s intended to make the drive from the coast to the west, or even vice-versa, a little bit nicer.”

In addition to warning drivers about ice, construction or accidents, they can also flash silver or amber alerts, give notficiation of evacuation routes, or even be used to communicate to drivers in case of a national emergency.

Four similar signs are already in use in New Bern, Hamilton said, mounted at either end of the Neuse and Trent River bridges. There are also two at Emerald Isle, while some will also be placed on the U.S. 17 Bypass being constructed west of New Bern and going around Pollocksville.

The New Bern signs include cameras so the 911 operators in the city who operate them can keep an eye on bridge conditions. Hamilton said the operators are able to activate pre-written messages as needed.

Along the U.S. 70 bypass, the signs are licensed to the city of Goldsboro to operate. Although La Grange is a good distance from the city, “It’s the first place you can give people a good message and (give them time) to react to it,” Neal said.

Once in operation it should help traffic flow more freely, he said. “It makes that drive a little bit nicer.”