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Cameras help winter safety

BY BRENDAN MAGEE | JANUARY 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowans no longer have to leave the comfort of their homes to see winter weather on highways and interstates. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation has installed iPhone 4 devices in 430 snowplows across the state this winter. 

It’s been almost a year since the DOT started its snowplow-camera program. The program aimed to allow Iowans the chance to see road conditions in real time online without having to put their safety at risk. 

“What’s really nice about it [the cameras] is that all areas of Iowa can see the road conditions,” said Tim Zeimet, the highway supervisor for the  DOT in Johnson County. “A couple of years ago, we were all in the dark, but now everyone can see what is going on across the state.”

The program has cost the DOT $200,000, and DOT officials call it a major success.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from both our staff and the general public,” said Craig Bargfrede the DOT winter operations administrator. 

The program has increased greatly in size from its pilot last winter, now covering a majority of the state.   

“People are able to see in real time how the roads are and make a conscious decision if they should travel or not,” Bargfrede said. “Our staff can even check conditions without having to go and drive to check the roads.” 

Zeimet said not only has the program has been successful since expansion, but it has also made his job simpler. 

“I’m able to see what’s going on in northern Iowa, and I can check the website and see if I’m going to need to send a few more plows out, and when I get phone calls asking if it’s snowing, I can just give them the website, and they can see for themselves,” he said. 

Bargfrede said even media outlets have begun using the cameras during their broadcasts. 

Over the next few years, the DOT hopes to continue to expand the program and increase the stability of its cameras, he said. 

Because of the success of the program, Missouri and Illinois have turned to the Iowa DOT for assistance in starting their own programs. 

“At this point, we’re providing them with our information that we’re getting out of the program and how our staff has responded to the program,” said John Hart, a DOT senior transportation engineer.  The DOT has also helped the states by giving out the iPhone app that officials developed for the program, he said.

“We like to share and help; there’s no reason not to,” Hart said.


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