The Iowa Department of Transportation is launching an annual summertime count of cars, trucks, and other vehicles traveling on the state’s roadways.

Mark Hansen helps oversee the effort for the DOT. He says the work is critical for the future of the state’s transportation system.

“We look at the city streets, the county roads, and the primary roads to get a feel for the type of vehicles that are on the roadways, the number of vehicles that are on the roadways, and we look at turning movements to see what the vehicles are doing at a particular intersection as well,” Hansen said.

This year’s count is concentrated primarily on southeast Iowa. “We do a quadrant of the state annually, so every four years we return to the place that we’ve been and we can gauge growth trends over the last time that we’ve been there,” Hansen said. Motorists in southeast Iowa will likely see DOT employees at various intersections entering information in hand-held computers.

“In addition to that, we have the black tubes across the roadway,” Hansen said. “You’ll hear the ‘thump’ when you drive across them…those are actually machine counters that we have there for 24 or 48 hours that are counting and, in some cases, classifying those vehicles.”

According to Hansen, the information that’s gathered allows transportation officials to better predict traffic volume and weight trends, allowing them to plan improvements that will give Iowans the most benefit for each tax dollar spent.