Sensors boost road safety on county highways

High-tech Recovery Act project aids area motorists
By: Gus Thomson Gold Country News Service
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Federal stimulus funds for traffic sensors are aiding Placer County commuters on Highway 65. Located under the pavement, the sensors provide real-time information for Caltrans at their traffic center in Rancho Cordova. Media traffic reporters use the information over the air or on the Web to help guide drivers during the busiest parts of the day. And motorists can find the information at the Caltrans Web site. A total of $1.2 million in President Barack Obama’s Recovery Act funding was used to install a total of 18 electronic sensors and under-pavement loop detectors on Highway 65, Highway 99, Interstate 80 and Interstate 5 at key locations in Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties. The work was recently completed by a Sacramento general contractor within budget and is part of $2.1 billion California is receiving for Recovery Act projects. Mark Dinger, Caltrans spokesman, said the new sensors will help drivers to gauge when and where to make their morning and evening commutes, as well as trips through the Sacramento-Placer-El Dorado region during the day and night. With the aid of the Web, a commuter can log onto the Caltrans Web site at and zoom onto a map that shows where delays could lie. For instance, sensors located at Interstate 80 and Auburn Ravine Road at Auburn’s Foresthill exit provide information on how heavy traffic is and what speed traffic is flowing at, Dinger said. “That’s also available to traffic reporting services,” Dinger said. For Caltrans, the information received at Rancho Cordova can be used to deploy units quicker to hot spots and – over the long term – to gather numbers for planning transportation projects in the future, he said. The information is also used on electronic signs to give drivers a better indication of how many minutes it will take to arrive at a destination, Dinger said. A Caltrans statement said that the sensor projects and others around the state are being completed sooner than expected. “Thanks to this Recover Act funding project, commuters in Northern California will be able to plan their routes better to reduce their travel time,” said Caltrans Director Randy Iwasaki.