New interstate sensor system will help alert drivers to backups

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - Drivers on Interstate 75 in Sarasota and Manatee counties have probably noticed work crews installing poles along the 112 mile stretch of interstate. Those poles are part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation System's sensors and cameras. So what does that mean for drivers?

The Intelligent Transportation Systems program is a tool designed to collect real time traffic conditions that can easily be relayed to drivers on the road.

It has probably happened to most drivers at least once -- you just merge onto the interstate, or pass an exit, only find traffic at a complete standstill. Well FDOT is planning on the Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, will help give drivers advanced warnings about road conditions.

The stretch of I-75 from the Charlotte County line up to I-275 in Manatee County is the last section of interstate to receive the ITS equipment. Since April 2012, crews have been installing fiber optic cable, sensors, and poles that will hold cameras.

"This is a good tool to help drivers commute safely and keep traffic flowing," says FDOT spokesperson Robin Stublen.

The poles are spaced out along the interstate and hold rectangular shaped sensors. "We monitor traffic flow with the sensors. That is just another method in which to make sure that people are moving across are bridges, our roads, safely and effectively."

Many of the tall poles will have movable cameras placed on them. The cameras will soon be hung from harnesses already in place on the poles.

“We strategically place cameras along the road so if we see there is an accident we can respond more quickly to that scene and help divert the traffic if needed," says Stublen.

The cameras will be monitored from a central location, where dispatchers can quickly alert emergency personnel of accidents or just send roadside assistance to motorists in need. "There is no recording of this what so ever. It is manned basically by the Florida Highway Patrol's office down in Lee County."

One of FDOT's goals, by using information gathered from the Intelligent Transportation Systems, is to help ensure the mobility of people and goods travelling our interstates. "If we can be alerted miles in advance that we have a traffic crash and gives us alternatives in which to take, rather than continue into the congested areas, we are all a lot better off for it," says Stublen.

The ITS project is scheduled for completion in Sarasota and Manatee counties by late summer.

The ITS is already up and running to the south in Collier County, and to the north through Tampa.