Massachusetts has saved nearly $12 million in the year-plus since it started using civilian flaggers to direct traffic at some road construction sites, state officials say, providing factual underpinning to what has become a hotly debated issue in the 2010 gubernatorial election campaign.
A job-by-job breakdown provided to The Associated Press shows how the state saved $28,000 during four relatively slow days in May by paying lower wages for flaggers to either replace or supplement the police officers who formerly had exclusive rights to stand watch over highway and side-road work zones.
One of the local projects cited in the breakdown was construction along Route 133 on Causeway in Essex. Employing civilian flaggers as opposed to police officers on that project reportedly saved the state $1,840 for the week of May 10-14 alone.
Essex Police Chief Peter Silva said Monday he's still not convinced.
"The savings that are being described may be mirage-like," Silva said. "They are telling us that this is going to save us a substantial amount of money; I want to see where the savings are."
Silva also highlighted the dangerousness of the work, and the value of having extra police officers on the road.
"It's second to none having a police officer on a work site," he said. "They have instant communication with the police, ambulance, and fire officials in our community, which the flaggers currently do not have."
The Study: A Snapshot
The four-day breakdown for all of the figures used in the report covered May 10-14, the work week immediately after the AP asked highway officials for a spreadsheet of traffic control payments for all current state projects using flaggers.
The remaining road work in the state that week, occurring before the height of the summer construction season, was overseen by police officers.