Q I was driving home south on Highway 85 about 9 p.m. the other night and thought an alien spaceship was landing on the freeway.

Scott Sherratt

San Jose

A A what?

Q Upon getting closer, I saw that it was a blinding bright electronic sign on the southwest side of the freeway advertising the stores at Almaden Plaza. This stretch of 85 is generally a suburban freeway -- no billboards, few bright lights, etc. This sign blazes out from the dark surroundings, and is so bright and distracting that I am concerned about the safety risk it introduces to this stretch of road.

I found myself squinting to be sure I could see the vehicles in front of me. And if those vehicles slowed down, would I be able to see the brake lights? How is this allowed?

Scott Sherratt

A Merc columnist Scott Herhold recently wrote about a similar electronic sign that will likely be installed next to Valley Fair, and he discovered that a couple of years ago the San Jose City Council changed its policy to allow such signs along our freeways. There are similar signs on 101 in the Redwood City, East Palo Alto and Great America areas, on 237 and along I-880 in the East Bay.

But the new electronic message board on 85 is steaming up the Roadshow phone line and email inbox.


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Q This sign is too bright at night. They need to somehow dim it. ... As I got closer to the sign I actually had to look away and try to block the light. It was as if I'm driving into a lot of headlights. ... This sign is completely inappropriate and should be taken down immediately before it causes a tragedy. ... It is so bright that from over a mile away it lit up the freeway. What were our city fathers thinking of when they approved this hazard? ... I hope that they will be dimming it soon or I will have to wear sunglasses at night. ... The images at night are more glaring than a lifted 4x4 with 10 fog lights at full power.

Dave Gray, Maryke Williams, Sandy Norman, Emily Riddle, Rich Wohlford, Ron Renwick, Michael Worley and so many more

A The sign won't be turned off, but based on past experience, it most likely will be dimmed. San Jose Councilman Pete Constant told Herhold that there's a "dearth of signs" as one gets to San Jose. "We need to be able to give our businesses that tool so that people know they're there," he said.

Ah, really? We didn't know those shopping centers existed? I can hear the howl of drivers all the way from Merc headquarters: "Give us a break."

Q The other day as I was heading to Highway 101 north from Yerba Buena Road, I saw a "ramp closed" sign, but no dates were posted. It would be nice to know when it actually will close. Is there a website that gives the dates? Meanwhile, time to research alternates (ugh).

Bea Chambers

San Jose

A The Valley Transportation Authority has asked the contractor to cover the signs until it knows exactly when ramps will be closed. The signs will be updated with closure information 72 hours in advance and the VTA will send out traffic advisories when dates are set. This information will be sent to Roadshow and to 511.org, where it will be available by phone, web, or mobile app.

Q Recently, I've seen several pinheads with iPod earbuds in while behind the wheel. Besides being illegal, this is, obviously, incredibly stupid and dangerous. Has anyone else mentioned this to you?

Robert Schuck

A Oh, my, yes. But it's legal for these pinheads to place an earbud in one ear. It is illegal to have earbuds in both ears.

Q Why is the escalator at the Curtner Avenue light rail station out of service?

Harriet Siegel

San Jose

A The Curtner escalator was slated to reopen this month, but replacement parts are no longer manufactured for these older models, which went into use in 1991. So work has been delayed until new parts arrive.

Go to Roadshow's expanded online presence at www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow and look for rules of the road, construction updates and favorite stories. Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.