State unveils Internet-ready interstate1/8/09

Monitoring equipment provides weather data

Jan. 8, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

It seems everyone and everything is connected to the Internet these days. Now even Interstate 89 is Web-enabled.

 


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Message boards showing real-time road and traffic information are now operating on Interstate 89 near French Hill in Williston and other locations along the highway.

Highway officials held a press conference Tuesday in Williston touting an effort to move traffic more safely and smoothly by using Internet-driven technology.

Amid the din of passing trucks and cars along I-89 just west of French Hill, they showed off a new electronic message board that provides up-to-date traffic information and sensors and cameras that monitor weather and road conditions.

“We have placed 12 new roadside message boards in strategic locations along I-89 that will convey information to motorists in real time,” said Vermont Transportation Secretary David Dill in a media release. “We not only will use them to display speed and weather advisories, but when a crash occurs we can let drivers know that they face delays ahead.”

The new message boards are stationed in 12 towns, including Williston, Richmond and Bolton. The boards are updated using data relayed via wireless Internet connections from cameras and sensors mounted on nearby towers and sensors embedded in the pavement, said Mark Gerrish, fiber optics project manager.

Motorists can also check conditions before they leave home by going to www.511vt.com. The Web site displays a map showing the location of traffic problems and still pictures that refresh every five minutes of sections of I-89 in Williston and elsewhere.

The equipment is capable of showing individual vehicles and measuring speeds, but Gerrish said it is not intended for use as a traffic enforcement tool.

“That’s not something we’d get involved in,” he said. “There are other issues with that, civil rights issues.”

Transportation officials say the technology will help road crews determine when and where to plow snow and apply salt. Data on roadway temperatures, humidity and wind can be accessed remotely.

“This new information will help our winter maintenance efforts become more efficient,” Dill said. “The data will let us know how well we are doing, as well as help us target our resources. The information also will aid in controlling costs because it will take some of the guesswork out of where and when we deploy not only manpower but salt and sand.”

The hope is that the monitoring equipment will help the state meet the goal of reducing salt usage by 10 percent, said Agency of Transportation spokesman John Zicconi.

The first part of the road condition monitoring network was installed three years ago in Williston and Brookfield. Those monitoring stations have been updated and others have been added along I-89, forming what the state calls a “high-tech corridor” that stretches 65 miles from Williston to Royalton.

The recent upgrades and additions to the equipment were funded by a $300,000 federal grant. In all, $700,000 has been spent so far installing the weather monitoring system, nearly all paid for with federal funding.

The goal is to eventually install 50 monitoring sites statewide over the next decade. “These tools help make our roadways safer,” Dill said.