ITD has launched a program that will more than double the number of Road Weather Information Stations (RWIS) statewide and adds cameras that give travelers visual views of highway conditions.
The $3.2 million contract recently awarded to Vaisala, a Finland-based technology company, will add 49 new sites to the 33 existing RWIS locations by late spring of 2008.
All of the new sites will include a highway camera or multiple cameras, and all will be available to motorists on the 511 Traveler Services Web site (511.idaho.gov ).
The new RWIS sites will help motorists see firsthand the prevailing highway conditions and enable them to make safer winter travel decisions.
The main purpose of RWIS sites, explains coordinator Kent Wetzstein, is to provide accurate and current road and weather information to maintenance foremen so they can better respond to changing weather and highway conditions. RWIS sites collect and electronically relay pavement data, such as temperature, friction measurements and depth of water, snow or ice on the roadway.
They also provide important information about atmospheric conditions – wind speed and direction, precipitation rate and type, barometric pressure and relative humidity. Some also provide snow-depth and subsurface temperatures.
“Technology has changed from the ‘puck’ that we used to imbed in the highway surface,” Wetzstein explains. “Data collection instruments now are mounted on poles along the roadway and receive information from an electronic beam.
“Vaisala is a world leader in the use of this technology and has a large presence in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada. Some of its data collection technology was included on the Mars rover.”
ITD has operated a district-led RWIS since the late 1980s. In an effort to apply technology consistently across all districts and bring stations operated by separate vendors into one system, ITD recently adopted a centralized approach.
Initially, the system was intended as a maintenance tool that helped guide snow plowing, sanding and de-icing decisions. The introduction of Idaho’s 511 Traveler Services in 2005 generated a public demand for the camera views. The 511 Traveler Services system that eventually replaced ITD’s Idaho Road Report included about eight RWIS cameras and more than a dozen other cameras operated independently or by other states.
As more motorists became aware of the cameras, the benefit expanded quickly.
Motorists now rely on the immediacy of visual images in planning their winter travel plans.
Alison Lantz, coordinator of ITD’s 511 Traveler Service, hopes the new RWIS cameras will provide greater stability, more visual options and enhance services to both motorists and maintenance crews.
“Camera images have become an essential part of safe winter travel, and adding 49 new ones will be a tremendous advantage for motorists,” she said. “The cameras will complement a number of other enhancements we’re making to the 511 system as part of its evolution.”
Angle & Associates, a Pocatello-based company, has finished installing the new RWIS sites in District 5 and is working on sites in District 4. The progression will then move to districts 6, 3, 2 and 1 respectively, Wetzstein explained. Installation should be completed by next spring.
The new RWIS stations also may be incorporated into Intelligent Transportation Systems to perform such functions as automatically activating Dynamic Message Signs and perhaps triggering bridge de-icing equipment.
Wetzstein expects the RWIS system – and the benefits to motorists – to continue growing as a priority in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
New RWIS locations
District 2: Top of Whitebird Hill, U.S. 95; Deary, Idaho 3; Cottonwood Creek, U.S. 12; Concrete Section, U.S. 95; Saddle Camp, U.S. 12; Shoshone County Line; Kamiah, U.S. 12; Elk City, Idaho 14; Top of Greer Grade, Idaho 11; Frei Hill, U.S. 95.
District 3: Fort Hall Hill, U.S. 95; Horseshoe Bend Hill, Idaho 55; Midvale Hill, U.S. 95; Highland Valley Summit, Idaho 21; Hammett Hill, Interstate 84; Little Donner, Idaho 55; District 3: Boundary, U.S. 95; Top of Summit, ION, U.S. 95; Goose Creek Grade, Idaho 55; I-84/U.S. 95 Interchange, I-84.
District 4: Juniper Interchange, I-84; Heyburn Interchange, I-84; Pine Turnoff, U.S. 20; Smiley Creek Airport, Idaho 75; Timmerman Hill, Idaho 75; Kinsey Butte, Idaho 75; Gwynn Ranch Hill, Idaho 46; Rogerson, U.S. 93; Conner Summit, Idaho 77; Idahome Interchange, I-84.
District 5: Pocatello (Monte Vista), I-15; Malad Summit, I-15; Blackfoot Rest Area, I-15; Fish Creek Summit, U.S. 30; Arbon Valley, I-86.
District 6: Tom Cat Summit, U.S. 20; Henry’s Lake, U.S. 20; Botts, Idaho 33; China Point, I-15; Gilmore Summit, Idaho 28; Willow Creek Summit, U.S. 93; Lone Pine, Idaho 28; Camp Creek, I-15; Osgood/Payne, I-15; Lost Trail Pass, U.S. 93.