Traffic

MDOT ready to sign on with traffic alerts on I-10

Mississippi Department of Transportation smart signs like this one in Hattiesburg will soon begin alerting motorists traveling on I-10 in Jackson County.
Mississippi Department of Transportation smart signs like this one in Hattiesburg will soon begin alerting motorists traveling on I-10 in Jackson County. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Mississippi Department of Transportation will soon flip the switch on its $10 million Intelligent Traffic System to alert motorists of traffic backups, accidents and weather conditions along Interstate 10 in Jackson County.

The ITC overhead messenger boards and cameras are actually on now, said Kelly Castleberry, MDOT District Six engineer. The system is being tested and those who control the boards are being trained to know when and what type of messages to post, such as lane closures and Amber Alerts when a child is missing.

“We won’t display messages all the time because we don’t want drivers to get used to them,” he said.

The system will operate along all 29 miles of I-10 in Jackson County, and at intersections.

“The state-of-the-art cameras can even be viewed before drivers take to the road, giving real-time views of traffic along I-10,” Transportation Commissioner Tom King said.

The system uses 92 video traffic cameras, 40 advisory boards with sensors that detect vehicle motion, and nine overhead electronic message boards, all connected by fiber-optic cable. Radar and sensors will be used to record speeds and determine how fast traffic is moving. The information is used to calculate travel time, Castleberry said, not to catch speeders.

“It’s strictly to give information to motorists,” he said.

But during the testing of the ITC system to find out how fast traffic was moving, he said, “we were clocking (some drivers) at 92 (mph).”

April is Work Zone Awareness month, to remind motorists to be cautious in work areas. “Slow down. Pay attention. Put the cell phones down and quit texting,” Castleberry advises motorists. The National Safety Council estimates cell phones account for about a quarter of all crashes a year.

The public already can see the camera views online.

But drivers will have to wait until the end of the year before MDOT’s $40 million widening project is complete on I-10 in Jackson County between exits 50 and 57.

“They’re actually on schedule right now for that project,” Castleberry said. Six bridges and the road are being widened to three lanes in each direction and crews will be putting down three layers of asphalt before the work is done. Lane closures are limited to evenings.

Other projects are on hold because of funding issues, but he said at some point work could continue widening I-10 the four miles from exit 57 to exit 61 at Gautier. “That would be a small project,” he said. Substantial funding would be needed to continue widening the interstate across the bridges to Moss Point. Also planned down the road is the widening of I-10 west of Gulfport, he said, from County Farm Road to Diamondhead.

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