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High-tech tools help VTrans track road conditions - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

High-tech tools help VTrans track road conditions

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

It is VTrans' version of air traffic control during a storm. They track everything out of this room in Montpelier. Whether it is the road conditions, the science behind those road conditions and even what they put on those message boards that they alert drivers about.

"We have about 50 message boards, most on Interstate 91, 89, few on secondary roads, Route 4, Route 2," explained Larry Dodge, a communications specialist for VTrans.

Dodge is the point person for those real-time messages during a storm.

"Tonight they'll all be on," Dodge said.

He is also updating the 511 website and the conditions at each camera that you can click on.

"This is a shot of the Brookfield RWIS station," he said.

RWIS stands for road weather information stations.

Mark Gerrish, a project manager with VTrans, takes us through what each RWIS includes. The radar drone measures vehicle speed, vehicle classification and traffic volumes.

"These are non-invasive pavement sensors," Gerrish said.

The small one measures the temperature of the pavement.

"This represents the pavement temperature. You can see that it's already dropping in this time frame," Gerrish said.

The big one tells how much grip there is on the road.

"As our crews go through and they treat, either plow or put down treatment, you'll see that grip will start to come back up. This allows us to monitor the effect of our treatment," Gerrish explained.

"A garage foreman can look at his computer screen, see what the road temperature is, see what the air temperature is, even look visually at the road via the cameras and get a feel for whether he needs to send people out without driving out there himself," said Scott Rogers, the operations director for VTrans.

Our cameras were rolling as a car was clocked going 80 mph in a storm.

"The big thing for me is vehicle speeds," Rogers said. "Anecdotally as we all drive around the state we know that people drive too fast during storms; we see them off in the ditch and you know thousands of other people drove through just fine. If you're driving too fast, you're going to have issues. Now we can actually see the numbers and see how many people are driving too fast and that's concerning to me from a safety standpoint."

He says figuring out how to use the data to drive home that message is still a challenge they are figuring out.

Once a storm starts, this is an around-the-clock operation. This room will be manned 24-hours until the storm passes, and that's to make sure everyone gets where they need to go safely.

Vermont started installing the road weather information stations 10 years ago. The technology has evolved through the years. For instance, there used to a device that looked like a hockey puck in the road to measure temperature, but now, they infrared beams to do that and get more accurate results.

Click here to see the VTrans road cameras.

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