When the information superhighway meets the state highway system, drivers can get real-time traffic information before they ever hit the road. Travelers in Whatcom County are about to reap the benefits of technology when crews install 21 new traffic cameras this year, the Washington State Department of Transportation says.
WSDOT just awarded a $5.3 million contract to Valley Electric Company of Mount Vernon to install 15 miles of fiber optic line and 21 new traffic cameras along Interstate 5 from the Samish Way interchange in Bellingham to the Birch Bay-Lynden Road interchange near Blaine, the state agency announced this week.
“We have a long stretch of I-5 that’s essentially a dead zone in terms of traffic information,” said Project Engineer Chris Damitio. “If there’s a crash and backups, or if it’s snowing, we can’t see it because there are no cameras or road sensors to help tell us what’s going on out there.”
That will all change once the key fiber optic network is completed, WSDOT said. A 10-mile-long dead zone between Bellingham and Blaine will be filled in, allowing travelers and emergency responders to hone in on road conditions.
“We’ll have a great view of traffic in areas that were previously dark,” said Damitio. “Drivers will know what to expect on the roads and be able to make more informed travel decisions.”
Work is expected to begin this spring and finish in the fall, and isn’t expected to affect traffic too much. Drivers can expect shoulder closures during the day, and lane and ramp closures at night.
The 21 new cameras will more than double the number of existing cameras along I-5 in Whatcom County. The 18 existing cameras are mostly concentrated in Bellingham or near the Canadian border. A list of locations for the new cameras can be found on the project website www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/WhatcomTrafficCameras/.