New technology along Interstate aims to improve safety

Published: Feb. 18, 2020 at 4:48 PM EST
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Maine Department of Transportation is making an investment in safety.

New weather and road systems are being installed on utility poles along I-95, aiming to improve driving conditions.

"There are two that are going to be up and running this winter in fact they were working this weekend on them, one in Freeport and one in Etna. 'Meteorologist support is in the contract. None of us are meteorologists so we want to combine that expertise with the weather data that we're getting, and you know use that to better time when we get out there.' One of the most important ones for us is called grip. So what that is is the actual condition of the pavement," said Steve Hunnewell, the Assistant State Traffic Engineer.

With these new systems they can actually grade the roads on their level of traction.

Then they decide whether the roads need to be treated and prioritize the Department's resources.

Part of the reason for the Etna location is the area's history of major crashes, including the 30 car pile up last month.

"When we have these up and running and we've established that relationship with the meteorologists that are going to be working with us. I do think we can prevent some of those," said Hunnewell.

The weather stations will also send automatic messages to the state's message boards when they detect slippery conditions.

"So it's not only getting our crews out there when the roads are going to be slippery and being proactive about that. But also being able to give automated messages when we don't even have to do a thing."