Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New cameras to help you know before you go

How do you know what your commute is going to be like? If you’re like a lot of people, you might check out one of our many traffic cameras. We have several hundred cameras statewide showing road conditions along a variety of big interstates and smaller state highways. Add to that our data loops that give you a color-coded clue of whether traffic is stop-and-go (black) or free-flowing (green), and our travel alerts page, and drivers can get a pretty good idea of what to expect on the road before they ever get in the car.

But some stretches of highway are what we call our blind spots. With no cameras and no data loops, the only way to know what traffic is like is to be there. Or have ESP. And on the highways, the unexpected is rarely good news.

Fortunately for drivers, we’ve recently added to our arsenal of cameras. In February, we brought 18 new cameras online between Everett and Arlington and hooked up one new camera to show conditions at the I-90/SR 18 interchange. But wait, there’s more: Later this month, seven new cameras in Pierce and Thurston counties will give drivers a bird’s-eye view of traffic between Lacey and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. And by June, drivers in southern Thurston County can use six new cameras to check their commute, too.

If you’re adding it all up, that’s 32 brand spankin’ new cameras covering a whopping 36 miles of highway: 16 miles in northern Snohomish County, one new mile along I-90 in North Bend, 11 miles in Pierce County and eight in Thurston County.  Goodbye blind spots, hello travel planning.

If you’re one of those people who’s more curious about how long your commute will take – in minutes rather than black and red dots on a map – you’re in luck, too. Travel times from Tacoma to Olympia (and vice versa) will start appearing Monday, March 12, on our Tacoma and Olympia traffic pages. Add that to the travel times already available on the Seattle Traffic page, and drivers can get a pretty good estimate of how long it will take to travel from Seattle and points north to Tacoma and points south. All with the click of a button (or two).

So the next time you head out for a road trip, or just hit the highway for your morning or evening commute, make sure to check out our new travel times and cameras. You might just save yourself some time (and frustration) now that you can know more before you go.

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