State to remove emergency call boxes from Florida interstates

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The state hopes to save $1 million a year by removing all the call boxes from Florida interstates. But some are concerned for those without a cellphone, or those caught with poor cell service in an emergency, like a hurricane.

Richard Darden's gas tank hit empty, leaving him stranded on Interstate 4 Wednesday afternoon. He didn't have a cellphone.  

"It would be nice if they left emergency phones so we could get in contact, get some help," said Darden.

Florida Department of Transportation officials said all call boxes will be off of Florida interstates by January. The FDOT recently removed the phones along Interstate-75.

"In our district we had them on I-75, I-4, the Beachline and I-95," said Jessica Keane of the FDOT.

"But officials said call boxes are like payphones, they are a thing of the past, because most people carry a cellphone.

In 2004, 22,051 calls were placed from the boxes on the highways, but last year there were 7,800 calls statewide. On average, that's just over 20 calls a day.

"What if people had to evacuate and phones weren't working? Did state address that?" Channel 9's Julie Salomone asked Keane.

"We do understand that if your cellphones aren't working these call boxes aren't going to work, (they) utilize same technology," said Keane.  

FDOT officals also point out that they have several highway cameras they monitor for safety, along with road rangers assisting stranded drivers.

Hawaii and Pennsylvania are the only two states left with call box systems.

Link to call box removal plan: http://www.dot.state.fl.us/trafficoperations/its/Projects_Telecom/MAS.shtm