Local News

DOT Pulls Plug On High-Tech Work Zones

Posted January 24, 2006 7:02 a.m. EST

— The Department of Transportation has decided its Smart Work Zone wasn't such a smart idea. The U.S. 1/Cary Parkway construction zone was wired with sensors, data trailers and cameras. Now all the high tech monitoring equipment is gone.

The Triangle's first Smart Work Zone featured a series of high-tech orange trailers. The trailers fed real-time traffic information to flashing message signs and a Web site. It was a driver's heads-up on lane closures and congestion. Now all the orange trailers are gone.

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    "They would let you know whether you needed to keep going the direction you were going or if you wanted to do a shortcut," said driver Erica Preston. "So with them yanking everything up, it's like you don't have no idea what's going on now when you travelling that way."

    "We were not getting the performance that we wished to have, and as with anything we do in state government, we need to cut back on expenditures if it's not working to our expectations," said DOT engineer Bob Shultes.

    The DOT says it doesn't know how much pulling the Smart Zone equipment will save taxpayers, but they say it's a small percentage of the project's $57 million cost.

    The system worked at first, then daily glitches pulled workers off their road jobs to fix the trouble. Even cell phones interfered with the message boards. After 10 months of tweaking, the state pulled the plug.

    There's still a general construction zone Web site. It has updates, such as the progress on a bike/pedestrian bridge that's going up near Cary Parkway. But the real time, everyday traffic information is gone. The DOT says it'll now concentrate more on the roadwork and less on a system that just didn't work.