The state unveiled a high-tech traffic monitoring system Wednesday along the freeways in Des Moines that a spokesman says will help drivers — but not invade their privacy. Mike Jackson of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s research and technology bureau says the “Trip Guide” system has 44 closed-circuit cameras and 68 special traffic sensors.
He says the side-firing, radar-type sensors are capable of measuring vehicle presence, volume, occupancy and speed for up to eight lanes of traffic. He says the sensors use wireless communications to deliver their data to a central computer system. Jackson says the sensor data is combined with video from the cameras to alert the D-O-T, law enforcement and the media of any problems. Jackson says this is the first system of its type in Iowa, but he says many major metropolitan areas use them and reap a number of benefits.
He says they’ll provide more detailed and timely information to motorists so they can make informed decisions about their travel. He says it’ll increase safety in and about construction zones and will reduce congestion and delay during rush hour and emergency situations. He says it’ll also create better air quality by reducing traffic delays. Jackson message signs along the interstates will relay information on traffic problems to motorists.You can also view traffic video and other information on the i235.com website, or listen to information via the 5-1-1 phone travel information system. While the system blankets parts of Iowa’s biggest city with cameras and sensors — Jackson says drivers shouldn’t be concerned about this being a “Big Brother” type situation. He says the cameras are set at wide angles so they don’t take tight shots into vehicles.
He says, “There are a few exceptional situations where if someone is coming very close to a particular camera that happens to be close to a highway, you may for a nanosecond be able to see that.” But he says they don’t zoom in because the tight shots don’t work well for managing traffic, and he says the chances of getting caught in a closeup are “very, very, slim.” Jackson says they’ll fine-tune the system as time goes by.
He says it’s a situation they’ll monitor with the system and make adjustments where appropriate. But he says they “don’t anticipate it being a big issue or concern.” Jackson says they also won’t be making tapes of what happens on the highways.
He says they have the capability to record video, but he says it’s their practice not to record any. He says the resources to record the cameras 24-hours-a-day and manage that operation would be a significant additional cost. The system cost three-point-eight million dollars to install, with the federal government paying 80-percent, and the state the rest. Jackson says it’ll take 30 to 40-thousand dollars each year to run the system. Jackson says they don’t have plans for such systems in any other Iowa cities, but it is something they will consider if they do reconstruction work in other metro areas. [Photo: closed-circuit DOT camera]