ITD introduces new features to improve 511 system for users

Idaho travelers have new tools at their disposal as part of the Idaho Transportation Departments commitment to continued improvement and evolution of the 511 Traveler Services system. The latest winter driving information is available on the Web at or by telephone at 5-1-1.

An array of weather information, collected by ITD's Road Weather Information System, was added to the high-bandwidth and mobile (3G) sites last spring. It was added to the new low-bandwidth site unveiled in late October.

RWIS began as an informational tool for transportation department maintenance workers as a way of determining winter activities, including plowing, sanding and de-icing. Continued development of the 511 system for public use made that information available to general travelers.

Beginning this year, 511 users can choose an icon with image of a thermometer to access conditions at more than 80 locations statewide. If the thermometer icon is red, temperatures at the corresponding site are above freezing; blue indicates below freezing conditions.

Clicking on the icon opens basic weather information at that location, including a photograph that is updated every 15 minutes. The inset window also lists the RWIS location, current temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction and wind gusts. Choosing the "more data" link expands the window to show about 20 conditions.

Each of the RWIS sites is self-supporting; they have independent power sources and connect to the statewide system by cell phone, modem or Internet link. ITD operates all of the sites and provides the information as a free service to travelers.

If portions of the Idaho map have a shaded color background, the National Weather Service has issued a weather warning for that area, from heavy snow to high winds and in the summer severe thunderstorms and flooding.

ITD's district offices provide the information. Highway conditions are updated twice each weekday and once on weekends unless changes dictate a more frequent schedule. Data can be updated quickly by ITD personnel or the State Communications Center in Meridian.

Time and date stamps indicate when the information was updated. If conditions have not changed in 24 hours, a notation will indicate no information available.

The fourth generation of CARS (Condition Acquisition Reporting System), introduced in May, enables data managers to attach detailed information for 511 users in the form of a PDF. The reports can explain construction projects along with detours and delays.

Also available on the high-bandwidth site are links to ITD's network of highway cameras, information on mountain passes, construction activities, lane restrictions and segmented highway condition reports with colors that correspond to the degree of driving difficulty (good, fair and difficult).

Users can select the reports desired or de-select those that aren't needed.

The Google maps offer three options a simple, scalable map that shows state highways, a satellite map that shows relative terrain, and a hybrid map that shows both terrain and highways/icons.

A tab at the upper left corner of the 511 site also enables users to switch between map views and route reports of all Idaho highways. Major highways are shown with corresponding information links, or users can enter a specific highway for a detailed report from either direction.

Published 11-19-2010