NDDOT aiming to make highways smarter

Local News

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has an ambitious plan to make the road you’re driving on smarter, and keep you safer.

The weather may be hot and steamy now, but eventually, snow will return and make your commute more dangerous.

The DOT is hoping to change that with the installation of what’s called an intelligent transportation system.

KX News sat down Friday Morning with DOT Head William Panos to learn how it enhances the current network of roads across the state.

“They help the system be more efficient, they help the system be safer, and then they help our investment in the system be maximized,” Panos said.

The department has plans to build what’s called a Transportation Management Center or TMC somewhere in the state.

TMC will utilize a network of cameras, sensors, weather stations and computer algorithms to make split-second decisions.

“Where vehicles are, where they will be, where the weather is, where it will be in an hour, where it was an hour before, what is on the road surface, is it a truck or a car. All of that information is fed into a very powerful computer with algorithms and predictive analytics to help us make decisions,” said Panos.

We all know how much the weather can vary wildly across the state especially when you think about the weather in Golden Valley County to the west compared to Cass County in the east and all points in between.

One of the new pieces of technology being introduced is what’s called an automated weather detection system. It can detect inclement weather on a certain stretch of road, then lower the road’s speed limit or close it altogether, all in the hopes of saving additional lives.

The system has been active for a few years along Interstate 80 in Wyoming, and actually shut a portion of it down to allow a tornado to pass, just like you’d be stopped for a freight train.

“We were able to see it coming, generally where it was going to hit, we were able to notify people to stop their vehicles, and let it pass, and then allow those vehicles to continue after the storm had passed,” Panos said.

The system can even direct people away from an accident up ahead of them.

“Before that truck has finished its accident, a police vehicle, an ambulance, wreckers have all been notified and already dispatched to that location because they’re hooked into the intelligent system and know it’s happening,” Panos said.

The system will first be installed on Interstates 94 and 29 first.

Highways 83, 85 and 2 could also expect to get the system further down the road.

Panos adds they hope to have the location of the TMC picked and built as soon as possible.

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