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Access To DOT Cameras Proved To Be A Dead End Over Weekend

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RALEIGH — After a rough weekend, many drivers are complaining that theState Department of Transportation's (DOT)roadside camera system is unreliable. The state has some ideas to improve the system.

While you are cruising down Interstate 40, the DOT is watching you. A $4.5 million federal grant paid for a series of roadside cameras installed in the summer of 1999. North Carolina taxpayers kicked in another $500,000 to help pay for an operations center.

The whole system is fed to astate Web siteintended for viewing around the clock, but this past weekend, the system went down.

"Our server crashed for some unexplained reason. It's never happened in the six months we've been operational," says DOT engineer Kelly Hutchinson. "We've just logged our half-millionth hit on our Web site, so in all that time, it's never crashed before, but it did crash this weekend."

Drivers who were looking for the latest images saw either black screens or a frozen image from last Friday. The DOT admits it needs to do better, and changes are already in place.

"When the date that's shown on the cameras on the Internet doesn't match the current date, a pager will go off, and it will alert one of our folks that someone needs to come in and physically take a look at the cameras," Hutchinson says.

Another complaint was that the DOT's electronic message signs were not working, but they say that is not the case. They say they only use the message signs for emergencies. When there is not an emergency, DOT officials say there is no need for a message.

There is only one full-time position in the DOT budget to staff the camera operations center. With a tight state budget, no new funding is expected in the near future.

The DOT is also planning to install an emergency camera center phone line that will be manned 24 hours a day.