Interstate 78 to Get Smart Technology

Berks County highway in Pennsylvania is part of $2.9 million project to monitor traffic, advise drivers of problems

Nov. 16--Pennsylvania highways, including Interstate 78 in Berks County, will soon be a little "smarter."

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is embarking on a two-year, $2.9 million effort to install message boards, highway-advisory radio systems and closed-circuit cameras on Interstates 78, 80, 81 and 380.

Federal stimulus money will be used to fund the smart technology projects.

Work is expected to start before winter weather sets in and continue throughout 2010, said Ronald J. Young Jr., a PennDOT spokesman.

Along I-78 in Berks County, crews are going to install highway-advisory radio signs and towers along both the east and westbound lanes, Young said.

Highway-advisory radio consists of a series of signs that flash when there is a traffic problem, directing motorists to tune to a radio station for more information.

The signs also will be placed on the north and south lanes of Route 61, near the I-78 interchange, Young said. Closed-circuit cameras will be placed at certain locations so PennDOT staff can monitor traffi c flow. And Interstate 78 will get a pair of message signs that will hang above the highway near Hamburg and Krumsville to alert motorists to accidents or construction delays.

"This allows us to manage traffic a little bit better," Young said. "There is not enough money to build our way out of congestion."

Interstate 78 was the scene of Pennsylvania's worst road closure in recent memory when snow and ice stranded motorists during a Valentine's Day storm in 2007.

A subsequent state report blamed the debacle on a lack of communication about deteriorating road conditions. The report recommended installing closed-circuit cameras and moveable median barriers to prevent similar problems in the future.

PennDOT has already made some of those improvements.

Alan D. Piper, Berks County transportation planner, said technology such as highwayadvisory radio and message signs are useful tools because they give drivers advance warning and the opportunity to take an alternate route. But motorists need to pay attention to those advisories.

"It makes the system run more effi ciently," Piper said. "The signs by themselves don't do anything if people don't take heed."

Contact Darrin Youker: 610-371-5032 or dyouker@readingeagle.com

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