— What are the black tubes I’m driving over all over the city?

The tubes are collecting data for the state’s three-year vehicle counts.

The counts are used to get average annual daily traffic numbers at specific locations. They are usually counted over 48 hours.

Data is collected at about 26,000 rural and urban locations throughout the state, according to the DOT website

The count is adjusted for variations in traffic volumes throughout the year and the average number of axles per vehicle.

The axles trigger a little puff of air that set off the counter, said Dennis Ryan, of Janesville’s engineering department.

Data from 2000 to 2010 is available on the state DOT’s website.

The department counts traffic at hundreds of locations, mostly on arterial streets, Ryan said. On Milton Avenue, for example, data is collected on both sides of the median.

The state uses the numbers to plan for road improvements. The recorded volumes help engineers estimate how much traffic increases each year, Ryan said.

Business owners also use the numbers when deciding where to locate companies.

The city does its own traffic counts at specific locations when needed, such as when the transportation committee gets a request for a yield or stop sign, Ryan said.

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