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Janesville will get traffic cameras: DOT

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Stacy Vogel
May 27, 2008
— The Wisconsin Department of Transportation apparently has changed its mind about installing traffic cameras on the Interstate in Rock County.

Less than three weeks after a spokeswoman told The Janesville Gazette there were no immediate plans to install the cameras, the department now is saying cameras will be in place before winter.


David Vieth, director of the department’s Bureau of Highway Operations, said the state is planning to install six cameras on Interstate 90/39 as part of a broader response to February’s record snowstorm.


The state bought the cameras and set up poles and wiring for them years ago but didn’t install them because of operation and maintenance costs, Vieth said.


“We’ve always intended to install cameras here (in Janesville),” he said. “It’s been a matter of getting to it and our priority of work.”


The Feb. 6 snowstorm made camera installation a priority, Vieth said. The storm stranded thousands of motorists overnight without food and water, and some officials said traffic cameras would have helped them assess the situation more quickly.


Vieth still isn’t sure how much installation and maintenance of the cameras will cost. The state is working on accessing a fiber optics network in Janesville that will allow the cameras to transmit data back to the DOT, he said.


Earlier this month, Peg Schmitt, a DOT spokeswoman, told the Gazette the department’s priority this year was repairing state roads damaged in the harsh winter, not installing traffic cameras.


There hasn’t been a specific trigger to change the department’s mind, but the department has been examining its infrastructure across the state lately, Vieth said this morning.


The DOT has been working for more than a year on a plan that examines the state’s tools on major highways, Vieth said. The final draft came out a few weeks ago, and the department expects to publicize it sometime this summer.


The report will recommend a 10-year implementation plan to make use of tools, such as traffic detectors, cameras, message boards and service patrols, he said.


It also will look at putting more gates on highway onramps like the ones on Interstate 94 south of Milwaukee, Vieth said. The department closes the gates when it wants to keep drivers off the Interstate, usually in response to major accidents, he said.


Other responses to the February snowstorm are also under way.


Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi ordered a review of the state’s response to emergencies in February. David Collins, superintendent of the Wisconsin State Patrol, said he expects the review to be released this summer or fall.


Next month, the DOT and Wisconsin Emergency Management will hold an in-office drill simulating a severe winter storm hitting the Eau Claire area, said Lori Getter, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Emergency Management.


She said state and county agencies will try to decide whether to shut down state highways in response to the simulated storm. They’ll also work with groups such as the Red Cross to help motorists unable to reach their destinations.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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