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Posted on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

New freeway cameras will monitor traffic flow in Ann Arbor area; message boards will warn of congestion

By Cindy Heflin


An image captured from a camera at I-94 and I-275.

Starting sometime next year, drivers on Ann Arbor-area freeways will be on camera as they travel about.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is installing the cameras, as well as message boards, to help motorists avoid congested areas and improve travel efficiency, MDOT spokeswoman Kari Arend said.

The public will be able to view video from cameras on MDOT's website, “They can go to those cameras and see how traffic is flowing,” Arend said.

The cameras will not be used for tracking motorists’ speed to issue tickets or for law enforcement purposes in general, she said, unless there’s some extenuating circumstance. "Generally, these are not recording," she said. "They're just live."

The system is similar to one already in use on freeways in the Detroit area. MDOT has also installed the cameras in several locations in Livingston County and is testing that system now. It should go live later this year, Arend said.

Washtenaw County will get 11 video cameras, 8 message boards, 3 travel time signs and 13 travel detectors or devices that help determine traffic flow. The cameras will be located at major intersections, including I-94 and US-23, I-94 and State Street, I-94 and Ann Arbor-Saline Road and US-23 and M-14.

Workers already have begun installing the system at several of the intersections. A testing period will follow the installation, and MDOT expects the system to go live in fall 2012, Arend said.

MDOT plans to place the message boards in strategic locations to warn motorists of crashes or construction congestion ahead so they can choose an alternate route. “For example, the one on westbound I-96 (in Livingston County) we put that board before M-59 so they can divert.”

MDOT plans to place travel time signs on eastbound I-94 near Zeeb Road, specifying travel time to downtown Detroit, and on southbound US-23 north of Geddes Road and northbound US-23 north of Geddes Road. Those signs will specify travel times to I-275 and M-52 and I-96.

The federal government is picking up the $3.2 million cost for the project, Arend said.

The cameras can assist police and emergency crews in mounting a fast response to crashes.

Sarah Gill, assistant operations delivery engineer at the Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems Center, which monitors the cameras in Detroit, said they can be turned in virtually any direction and can zoom to a mile and a half away. They allow dispatchers to give rescuers accurate information about where accidents are.

"They can tell them which entrance ramp they can get on," she said. "It helps minimize the drive time."

But motorists need not fear Big Brother is watching their every move, Gill said. The cameras can't zoom in on license plates and can't see how many occupants are in a car, she said.

"We have 207 cameras in southeast Michigan. We can't even view them all," she said.


Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

In my experience freeway congestion is the result of 4 possible events. Normal "rush hour", construction, special events, and accidents. The first 3 are entirely predictable and the last one is entirely unpredictable. If we the people were flush with money I would say go for it.... another tool with limits they confirm what we all can find from other sources. But Government at all levels is pretty strapped for money. I see these cameras as a 'luxury" we can't afford.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

"The cameras can assist police and emergency crews in mounting a fast response to crashes." How? An accident report comes in...if..if...if its even in camera range there's still only three was to get there. Through the air, or on one of the two directions the freeway runs. In this day of cell phone usage I would imagine any information needed could be supplied by incoming 911 calls. But I am more than willing to be enlightened on this.

John Q

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

Sounds like most people have no clue how much it takes to add a lane each way to a freeway. The money spent on these cameras wouldn't come close to covering the cost to do that kind of widening.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

your correct. But a wider freeway will mitigate congestion while a camera merely chronicles congestion.


Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

AA, my God, are we really this dense? 1. Make 94 3 lanes, it's 3 lanes before and after AA, that makes no sense! 2. Make 23 3 lanes. Duhhh! 3. Make priority routes to downtown and the hospitals with two lanes highways.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

Trafffic backs up at the same places/times every day. Probably it will back even up more due to accidents resulting when people try to view cameras on their iphone while driving.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

Wow! Put up cameras to watch drivers on the broken roads. Sounds like a government idea to me.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Who writes your polls????? The choices should be Yes, No, No Opinion.

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

I'm fine with these cameras, so long as the messages to motorists are presented before it's too late to avoid the traffic jam ahead. Also, I hope the messages are not in code or so abbreviated that one is still trying to figure out what they mean long after an exit from the mess is possible. Yes, I have learned that SB means "Southbound," and sometimes I remember the route number for named roads like Southfield, but I just hope they balance the needs for brevity and clarity.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Hey Cindy, How much money is this going to cost us? There is some very good points on here. They better put those signs before michigan ave, or the only thing the signs will do, is tell you your future.

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

Kari Arend said the system will cost $3.2 million. The money comes from the federal government.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

"They" always say it will only be used for good the hands of a government it rarely is. One Nation Under Surveillance

Doug Coombe

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

Nice. Another completely unscientific poll with loaded wording.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

I don't see the point. Unless you live close to one of these monitored sights, if you see the jam, chances are it will be clear by the time you get there. If it's a long term back-up, it's most likely due to recurring rush hour traffic, so most will already know. Others have already brought up the lack of effective alternate routes. The lack of these are already evident when the masses of orange cones appear. As for the big brother factor, whose to say that the purpose won't change if those in power decide to use the cameras for more nefarious purposes. Money would better spent on other things, like policing and road repair.

Frank Lee

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Generally, these are not recording, they're just liveā€¦ unless there's some extenuating circumstance. DUH, they are recording. Spend the money on adding additional lanes or Interchange's so we can improve traffic flow not monitor the lack there of.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

Once again, your poll doesn't off answer anywhere near what I'm feeling. No, I don't think they'll be all that helpful but no, I don't see it as a Big Brother problem. I just think there are better, more effective, ways to learn where congestion is.

David Briegel

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

Cameras will not change the simple fact that I-94 between 23 and State needs to be widened to accomodate the peak volume. It is a parking lot at rush hour! Penny wise and pound foolish tax cutters!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

Adding lanes does not reduce congestion over the long term: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. There are a number of ways to reduce congestion, but widening is an expensive and ultimately futile strategy.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

Signs on 94 will do be of no use. Traveling WB 94 M-F, I frequently encounter slow-downs on 23 that affect 94. Once you're past Mich Ave there are NO Alternate routes. So, unless the signs are situated before the Mich Ave exit, they will be useless. I agree with Kafkaland - widen 94 to 3 lanes. They should have done that years ago when they re-did the bridges. That would eliminate the congestion at 23 &amp; 94 and cut down on the accidents at that interchange.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

Without an alternate route it's useless. How about that commuter train between Livingston County and Ann Arbor? Whatever happened there? It's funny to see the multitudes driving 23 to Plymouth Rd, then parking in a lot to take the bus to U Hospital. Why not offer a direct mass transit route bypassing 23 altogether?


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Mass transit? That reeks of socialism! We should have the freedom to drive wherever and as fast as we want and be able take a spontaneous trip to the grocery store on the way home. We should have the freedom to lose an hour a day or productivity with our commute since we have to pay attention to the road. We should have the freedom to not have to leave work at a reasonable hour so we can catch the outbound train. Pure socialism!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

I don't care what type of mass transit it is...but the cost and nightmare of adding lanes to 23 makes almost anything viable. I can't see any way with the volume of traffic on 23 in that stretch that they could ever construct additional lanes. They would have to close the x-way to do it.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

The cost of the bus is cheaper than parking your car. The cost of a train(s) to accomodate peoples' schedules would be very expensive. How about a dozen buses that run between to two locations. 50 people on a bus would be less expensive than using your own car and way less expensive that putting in a commuter rail system.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

I believe that train is dead in the water as it is not economically viable.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

How about widening I94 around Ann Arbor to three lanes, instead of installing cameras that just show the obvious? I believe I have heard somewhere that this has been looked into a couple of years ago and was somehow found to be no feasible, but I don't remember what the problem was (besides Ann Arbor being happy with traffic jams as a punishment for all car users). Does anyone know?

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

I agree, but I believe there are real estate problems involved. At Jackson Rd, it appears it would encroach on either the cemetery to the west or Westgate shopping center to the east. Bridges at Liberty and Scio Church would have to be completely replaced because they're only wide enough for four lanes. The State Rd and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd appear to be wide enough already, though. I wouldn't be surprised if land would have to be grabbed between Scio Church and M-14 at least, maybe all the way to State. A full intersection at M-14 would also be nice, especially because that would cut down on the idiots that use Maple and Jackson at 45 mph as a substitute for this.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

Widening will only increase the number of commuters over the long term, so you'll eventually just end up with the same level of congestion.

Thick Candy Shell

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

It is not possible to widen the area of 1-94 near Jackson Rd off ramp due to the configuration of the bridge. In order to widen it and make it safe, a large portion of the cemetery would have to be uprooted and moved. I believe the Washtenaw Area Transportation Studies (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> did the report on it.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:15 a.m. now has traffic intergrated into it's program, now you can look at delays and accidents posted, and the average speed of vehicles in the area.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 10:31 a.m.

Poll closed the day before the story was published... Cameras are a proven safety benefit and are great to check weather and road conditions before a trip.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

Why can't you just provide the answers, &quot;Yes,&quot; &quot;No,&quot; and &quot;I'm not sure?&quot; Why do you need to add the other garbage to it?

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

The poll is now active.