Cameras, signs, radio getting ready for the influx

By on May 23, 2012

NCDOT camera at state line on N.C. 168 (Trafficland.com)

Traffic problems along N.C. 168 and U.S. 158 are nothing unusual between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and if you include Interstate 64 in Virginia, it can be a real headache just getting from Richmond to Kitty Hawk on an average Saturday.

But in the coming days, transportation departments in North Carolina and Virginia are adding a number of enhancements that could make traveling to the Outer Banks a little less stressful.

And there is a distinctive voice that returns to the radio this weekend giving not only up-to-the minute traffic updates, but sound advice on how to drive safely and courteously.

More traffic cameras operated by NCDOT went on line earlier this year in Currituck County, both on the mainland and the Outer Banks, as well as at the Alligator River Bridge on U.S. 64, and the Pasquotank River Bridge in Elizabeth City.

Twenty-nine cameras are placed at strategic intersections and bridges on the beaches and the mainland.

But the cameras along one of the busiest stretches of the bypass in Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head have been down for several weeks.

“All of the traffic cameras and traffic signals along the U.S. 158 corridor are connected to the same fiber optic line,” said NCDOT spokesperson Hollie Allen.

“We recently installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of U.S. 158 and West Landing Drive . . . when the fiber was spliced to connect to the new signal we lost communications to the cameras south of this location,” Allen said.

That took down the cameras from Colington Road in Kill Devil Hills to Mall Drive in Nags Head.

“Luckily this did not affect the traffic signals,” Allen said. “We are working to resolve the issue, however this involves a lot of tedious work checking each and every splice and connection along this section of roadway,”

Allen said they hope to have the problems corrected before Memorial Day weekend.

Variable message sign in Coinjock (Sam Walker)

Over the past several weeks, the NCDOT has been erecting four electronic variable message signs along N.C. 168 and U.S. 158 in Currituck County.

The permanent signs are on southbound N.C. 168 in Moyock, just north of the N.C. 34 intersection in Sligo, and prior to the U.S. 158 intersection in Barco.

A fourth sign has been placed on westbound U.S. 158, just north of the J.P. Knapp Bridge in Coinjock.

“They will be used during (road) work to warn motorists of accidents or other safety hazards, and also used during traffic back-ups/delays,” said Allen. “NCDOT will have sole control of these, but we will work closely with Currituck and Dare County emergency management for sign activation needs.”

(The signs) will be controlled by Division One (personnel) and by the State Operations Center in Raleigh,” Allen said.

The total cost of the four signs was $300,000, according to Allen.

The Virginia Department of Transportation unveiled six new electronic message signs Wednesday in the Hampton Roads region to help motorists choose the quickest drive time to the Outer Banks or the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

“The ‘Reach the Beach’ initiative will help VDOT improve the overall traveler experience by providing updated travel times at key decision points approaching and leaving the beach,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in a news release.

“This system will help travelers by providing them with the most reliable travel time information available and where possible, encourage them to use alternate routes that are less congested.”

“The signs are part of an ongoing initiative to improve the quality of transportation services in the commonwealth, and are being activated in time for the summer vacation travel season,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton.

Using a system that incorporates data from roadway sensors, Bluetooth devices, and data provided by INRIX, Inc., VDOT will display comparative travel times (in minutes) for two routes.

Example of signs on Virginia interstates (VDOT image)

The six static roadside signs are positioned at strategic decision points at the following Hampton Roads locations: I-64 eastbound at Denbigh Boulevard in Newport News, I-264 westbound at First Colonial Road in Virginia Beach, I-664 at U.S. 58 eastbound in the Bowers Hill section of Chesapeake, V.A. 168 northbound on the Chesapeake Expressway, and I-664 South at Dock Landing Road in Chesapeake.

According to a news release, travel time information will also be available at safety rest areas and Virginia welcome centers in Fredericksburg, Skippers and New Kent County to help motorists traveling from the Washington, D.C. and Richmond areas.

The travel time for the Outer Banks signs in Virginia will show the time it takes for a motorist to reach the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Expressway, where Va. 168 meets I-64.

Max Radio of the Carolina’s stations will begin offering traffic reports each weekend, starting this Friday, through Labor Day weekend.

The Traffic Guru (submitted photo)

Updates from The Traffic Guru, Milo Spriggs, can be heard on Beach 104 (104.1 FM), 94.5 FM WCMS, 99.1 FM The Sound, Classic Hits 104.9 FM and 92.3 FM, and News Radio 560 AM WGAI.

The reports, which cover Currituck and Dare counties and the Chesapeake Expressway, will air on Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“I use the (NCDOT) cameras mainly, and make an assessment from viewing the traffic flow, monitoring traffic volume, accidents, and then relay the information to the listeners,” Spriggs said.

The public can also be call in problems they see on the traffic hotline, (252) 441-7214.

“I try to offer helpful driving tips, and hints to vacationers, that are both amusing and informative at the same time,” Spriggs said.

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