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By Mary Jo Almquist, Published August 05 2002

Survey: Drivers want year-round traffic Web site

Preliminary results of a new survey indicate that Fargo-Moorhead drivers would like a year-round Web site with up-to-the-minute traffic information.

Survey results won't be conclusive until after the Interstate 29 construction project is complete, but an early look shows 92 percent of respondents thus far would be willing to visit a traffic Web site on a regular basis.

The survey, posted on the North Dakota Department of Transportation's I-29 Web site, is being conducted by the Advanced Traffic Analysis Center in Fargo.

It attempts to evaluate construction route choices, driver compliance in work zones and motorist perceptions.

Traffic analysis centers operate throughout the country by working to enhance transportation systems in small to medium size cities. The Fargo office is part of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University.

The NDDOT is using the center as it plans to implement an Intelligent Transportation System, which will include permanent message boards, video cameras and weather monitoring devices, in the Fargo metro area over the next 10 years.

"It's in the infancy stage here," said Kevin Gorder, NDDOT I-29 project coordinator. "We're going into this slow, but it's new and exciting."

The NDDOT already has taken steps toward creating an Intelligent Transportation System in Fargo. In May of last year, six new message boards were purchased.

Now located in various parts of the I-29 construction project, the message boards eventually will be used in various other high-traffic areas where the public might need information.

The NDDOT also has live camera feeds and weather updates every 60 seconds on the I-29 Web site as part of the system.

In addition, I-94 at the Red River Bridge has sensors in the road which can determine the temperature of the pavement. The NDDOT uses this information to know when the pavement temperature drops below freezing, for example.

"Then it's time to start sanding," Gorder said.

The survey is the traffic center's way of investigating the potential of a full-blown Intelligent Transportation System in Fargo.

"We need to justify the new technology," said Ayman Smadi, director of the center. "So far the results are very supportive of what we thought."

More than half of the respondents so far have said they used I-29 at least once a day before the construction project began, but about

40 percent use it now.

The Internet is the best way to deliver timely traffic information, better than both radio and television, according to 36 percent of the respondents.

Of the people who take alternative routes, 47 percent said they use 45th Street. Smadi said he was surprised that only 17 percent said they used 42nd Street as an alternative to I-29.

About 40 percent of the people have said they alter the their departure times as a result of construction, and a majority of people indicated that traffic is heaviest on I-29 in the afternoon.

"This information can be used to help design how the system will work," Smadi said. "We're trying to find out what people think and want."

The survey will be on the I-29 Web site through November. Smadi said he hopes to analyze driver feedback during and after the I-29 construction project.

For more information, visit the NDDOT's Web site at www.i29fargo.com or the Advanced Traffic Analysis Center at www.atacenter.org.

The NDDOT also reminds drivers that southbound I-29 will be down to one lane from Main Avenue to 13th Avenue South starting early today and lasting for about a month.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531