A few minutes on the computer might save area drivers a lot of time on the road.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is finally installing a system that uses cameras, traffic sensors, a website and message boards to alert drivers to trouble ahead.
Originally expected to be done at the end of 2009, the $18.4 million system in Akron, Cleveland and Canton is adding pieces every week and aiming to finish by September.
When completed, the system will have 64 traffic cameras, 18 “dynamic message signs” and 18 vehicle detectors in Summit and Stark counties.
Before a trip starts, a driver can log onto http://www.buckeyetraffic.org and see a map of area freeways with colors indicating speed. Green means clear sailing. Yellow indicates speeds from 26 to 54 mph. Red means slower traffic. Gray indicates no data.
Highways served will include Interstates 77, 76, 71, 90, 480, 271, 277 and state Routes 2, 8 and 21 and U.S. 224. The Ohio Turnpike is not included, because it is served by the Turnpike Commission, which is separate from ODOT.
The online map also has links to traffic cameras, although only two are running in the Akron area now. Click on the camera icon and you can see the traffic situation for yourself. The images are still pictures, but are updated every three seconds, said Justin Chesnic, ODOT public information officer.
The data come from the vehicle detectors set every mile in both directions using broadband radar to take readings a minute apart. It represents an average of speeds in all lanes. No individual vehicle speed is registered.
Once on the road, a driver will see “dynamic message boards” to learn the time and distance to upcoming landmarks. The sign on southbound Interstate 77 near Copley Road indicated state Route 8 was six miles and six minutes away at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Other possible messages would involve road closures ahead, Amber Alerts and missing adults.
Chesnic said the information is monitored by a traffic management center in Columbus where technicians might be able to improve safety.
“They can see an accident literally minutes after it happens” and alert firefighters or police, he said.
Unlike some cameras used in Akron, ODOT’s sensors do not report high speeds to authorities and you will not get a speeding ticket based on what it detects.
“It’s not anything that can be used against a driver,” Chesnic said. “They’re not going to snap a license and use it against you.”
You also can get alerts by following @ODOT_Akron.
There are some technical issues to work out. The website does not work with all browsers, and it does not work on all smart phones.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at davescottofakro.