The system will include 92 reporting stations through the state. Each station will transmit data covering a radius of about 20 kilometers or about 13 miles. The closest station to Paynesville is located one mile west of Regal on Highway 55.
The system (known as R/WIS, road weather information system) will include data from roadside stations as well as stations at airports and other locations. The R/WIS stations include sensors placed in the highway subgrade, on the road surface, and above the road on towers 33 feet high. The towers will collect and report weather data such as air temperature, precipitation, and wind speed and direction. The road sensors will also inform maintenance managers about road conditions and existing concentrations of deicing chemicals, such as salt, to help them determine when the road surface will freeze.
Ten of the stations have video cameras installed that can relay visual information about weather and road conditions, such as fog, rain, and snow.
Ed Fleege, project manager, explains: "The video cameras are not used for surveillance or any purpose other than weather, or traffic volume, and speed reports. R/WIS will connect the new stations, the stations now in use, plus information from stations at airports and the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus."
"Eventually, the R/WIS system being completed by MnDOT will connect systems operated by the National Weather Service, airport weather stations, and similar facilities into an easy to use network to give travelers accurate, complete, and timely weather and road condition reports," Fleege added.
By reporting on a relatively small area, the system can give drivers detailed information about conditions in their immediate vicinity. The system also provides statewide data and can, for example, track a storm and predict when it will hit a specified area.
Data from the reporting stations will be available to the public at information kiosks at several locations on major highway routes. Travelers will also be able to receive the information by telephone, and on the Internet this fall, Fleege said.
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