April 24, 2014

Cameras will track I-89 road conditions

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State says devices won’t be used against motorists

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The state is installing cameras and other instruments on Interstate 89 that will monitor road conditions, allowing crews to quickly decide when and where to plow or apply salt.

The first set of monitoring devices will be placed atop 30-foot metal towers on Interstate 89 between Exit 12 and the Williston rest area, and in the town of Brookfield.

In addition to cameras, the system will include sensors that monitor temperature, moisture and wind. Sensors will also be buried in the pavement.

The data generated by the equipment will be relayed to district offices, allowing Agency of Transportation workers to instantly determine whether to apply salt or send snowplows.

Agency of Transportation spokesman Ian Grossman said motorists need not worry that Big Brother is watching them with the cameras.

“They give a broad angle shot will show traffic in the distance” he said. “They can’t pick out vehicles.”
The cameras cannot zoom or pan. Nor can they record video, Grossman said. Instead, they will record still images that will be updated every couple of minutes.

In fact, he said, the cameras are actually the least important part of the system. The sensors placed under the pavement and mounted on the towers will supply most of the data. “The cameras give a visual confirmation that what the sensors say makes sense,” Grossman said.

The purpose of the system is to save time, effort and money. Currently, road conditions are checked by agency employees who drive the roads. With the monitoring system in place, road conditions can by monitored remotely at district offices via the Internet.

Motorists will also be able access the data produced by the sensors on the Internet or by calling the 511 road information number.

The monitoring system will cost $1.5 million, 80 percent of which will be federally funded.

Over the next five to eight years, the remaining equipment will be installed. Eventually the system, called RWIS, or Roadway Weather Information System, will include 60 towers throughout the state.

The Williston and Brookfield locations were picked as sites to test the system because they represent two very different situations, Grossman said. The Williston site has some of the heaviest traffic in the state; the Brookfield site has especially challenging weather conditions.

Grossman said the Williston and Brookfield sensors should be operating by the end of December.

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