For the past few months, Web-savvy drivers have kept a bird’s-eye view on Spokane traffic.
Nearly three dozen video cameras send streaming images that people can monitor from their computers.
The cameras show in real time how traffic is moving and where slowdowns are a problem.
The information is available to the public at www.srtmc.org, a newly redesigned site activated recently through the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.
The site also gives data on average traffic speeds, weather reports, construction and accident alerts.
It is part of a sophisticated traffic management system operating 24 hours a day at a control center inside the transportation council office at 211 W. First Ave. The system is the work of state and local transportation officials.
Users can customize the site’s home page by selecting any of five camera feeds to be displayed there.
“If there’s one thing I think is really cool it’s that you can make your commute really personal,” said Monica Harwood, manager of the communications center. “It gives motorists a chance to see what is going on,”
Most of the cameras are posted along Interstate 90, where traffic is the busiest.
In addition, Second and Third avenues downtown and Hamilton Street at Trent Avenue have cameras. Plans call for adding cameras along Division, Maple and Ash streets next year.
By next year, Spokane Valley plans to install a series of cameras on Appleway Boulevard and Sprague Avenue, in addition to a variable message sign on westbound Sprague to warn drivers of slowdowns on the freeway.
Road conditions, construction work and accident reports from across northeast Washington are tracked on the site.
Pavement sensors give an average speed for traffic movement. Weather stations provide up-to-the-minute data on road and weather conditions.
SRTC officials are working with Idaho transportation managers about extending the camera coverage into the Coeur d’Alene area, said Glenn Miles, SRTC’s transportation manager.
State and local agencies funded the $6 million system, which has been improved since it began in 2001, Miles said.
Because of the collaboration, the Web site is among the best of its kind in the country, he said.
Work on the north Spokane freeway passed another milestone last week.
Crews began work on digging a new route for U.S. Highway 2 so it can pass beneath the new freeway just north of Farwell Road.
The $42.8 million job involves construction of six bridges for the freeway lanes, ramps and a new crossing for U.S. 2 over Peone Creek to the northeast of the freeway corridor.
Graham Construction and Management Inc., of Spokane, is the lead contractor. Completion is expected in 2011. It is the seventh of eight contract pieces for completing the freeway from Francis Avenue to Wandermere by 2011.
An initial segment from Francis to Farwell Road is expected to open next year.
Funding for the work comes from a nickel-a-gallon gas tax increase enacted in 2003.
Bridge work will create 77,000 square feet of elevated surfaces. The longest bridge, at 980 feet, will connect southbound traffic on U.S. 2 to the southbound lanes of the freeway.
In addition, the job involves a series of retaining walls, local access frontage roads, and a bike and pedestrian path.
At Peone Creek, a new 30-foot-wide arch structure will replace a box culvert, allowing for fish passage and wildlife migration along the creek.
Traffic should not be affected until next June, when the most extensive excavation is scheduled to begin.
The Idaho State Police is offering a class in winter road safety on Saturday at 9 a.m. at their regional office at 602 W. Prairie Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.
The free class, lasting up to three hours, also includes information on safe driving, how to deal with aggressive drivers, drunken driving and other roadway problems. To reserve a place, call the ISP office today through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (208) 772-6055.
Lane restrictions may still be in effect for a construction project on Pines Road at Mansfield Avenue.
Traffic islands along Farwell Road are under construction in conjunction with the north Spokane freeway and will restrict left turns when completed.
Flaggers are going to help direct traffic at NorthTown Mall starting Friday, and at River Park Square starting Dec. 19.
Riverside Avenue near Wall Street will be reduced to one eastbound lane through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for utility work. Wall will be closed between Riverside and Sprague.