Friday, February 8, 2008

Drivers can view highway conditions

Cameras are part of statewide traveler information system


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Northbound motorists come to a standstill during a snowstorm Thursday morning on state Highway 75 at the East Fork intersection, between Ketchum and Hailey. Information about driving conditions can be found on the Idaho Transportation Department Web site, 511.Idaho.gov. Photo by David N. Seelig

The best way to learn about road conditions is to look at them yourself, and the Idaho Transportation Department has a way for drivers to do that before they leave home.

As part of its 511 Traveler Information system, ITD has about 60 cameras permanently stationed along Idaho's highways. The cameras take periodic photographs of the roads and relay the images to a department Web site, 511.Idaho.gov.

Two cameras will be of particular interest to commuters and visitors on state Highway 75 south of the Wood River Valley. One is north of Timmerman Hill and the other is at Kinsey Butte north of Shoshone.

The 511 Traveler Information system was implemented in 2005, but ITD is continually adding new cameras and making other improvements to the system.

"We're always working to improve it, so it is a work in progress," said Mel Coulter, an ITD communications specialist in Boise.

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For example, different cameras take new photographs at varying time intervals, but "we want to get to the point where they're real time and are updated about every five minutes," Coulter said.

There's lots of other useful and interesting information at the 511 Web site. Maps show driving conditions statewide and road closures are identified. There's information on public transportation, airports, historic markers, rest areas and more. There's even a link to Amber Alerts to help find missing children.

Coulter said the Web site has proven popular with the public.

"We encourage people to go out and kick the tires and if they see something they don't like to let us know," he said. "We value their input."

Coulter points out that people without access to computers can obtain road-condition information by dialing 511.

"We do encourage folks to access the system from a stationary position so they're not driving while they're trying to get road conditions," he said.




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