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511 System Could Help Alleviate Traffic Problems

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RALEIGH — Triangle drivers are very familiar with traffic snags, but a group of traffic engineers from across the country says there could be a way to avoid trouble spots, and it could be as easy as dialing 511.

If you are already in your car, how would you know for sure that there was trouble ahead? 511 is a plan to tell people, while they are driving, what is waiting for them.

"We'd like to see it be a voice-activated system so you're not fumbling with your keypad, so the menu would probably come on and say 'One for highway information, two for transit information, three for other modes of transportation and four for other customer service," said Kelly Hutchinson, an engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The federal government now has grant money available to help states create a 511 traveler's information line that could someday be nationwide. North Carolina is applying for one of the grants, and plans to run the road information service out of 10 statewide locations, including the Transportation Management Center in West Raleigh. Hutchinson says when road problems happen, 511 callers would hear a menu of options:

"There's an incident on westbound I-40 near Harrison Avenue, closing the left lane, delays are back to wherever they may be at this time, and we'd give that information real time and update it as the situation changed," said Hutchinson, describing a potential menu.

Along with helping drivers, 511 could also help 911. Emergency dispatchers are often taken away from more serious calls, with drivers asking what is blocking their way.

"511 is to traveler information like 911 is to emergency information," said Hutchinson.

511 is still just a plan, but the DOT says it is a plan that will help all North Carolina drivers.

The DOT says they do not have enough information at this point to estimate when 511 could go into service. When it does, they say the calls will be free.


Mark Roberts, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julian King, Web Editor

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