Number of travel info hotline calls keep rising
Use of the state 511 travel information hotline is still rising sharply, six years after it was unveiled. In 2008, more than a half-million people called the number, which was first implemented in 2002 to give travelers an idea of true road condi...
Use of the state 511 travel information hotline is still rising sharply, six years after it was unveiled.
In 2008, more than a half-million people called the number, which was first implemented in 2002 to give travelers an idea of true road conditions during inclement weather.
Along with the SafeTravelUSA Web site, both programs are gaining interest each year and Dave Huft of the South Dakota Department of Transportation said he's hoping to see some improvements in the future.
In 2002, 24,583 used the system. In 2003, the number skyrocketed to 228,258.
The number dipped slightly in 2004 with 166,572, but has experienced a steady increase in the following years.
Since 2006, South Dakota also has been part of the SafeTravelUSA Web site, where travelers can utilize cameras placed along selected state highways and interstates to view weather conditions themselves.
The site has had more than a million South Dakota visitors in 2008, a sharp increase from the almost 300,000 that first used the site in 2006.
Huft is hoping to increase the number of cameras in the state from the current 36, but with the future of federal and state transportation funding uncertain, Huft said he's waiting to see what the next step will be for the program.
"We've expanded all the funding that we have available for that purpose right now, so putting out more cameras will depend on more funding," Huft said. "Nobody knows what Congress is going to do in the next appropriation or authorization."
Information for 511 callers is updated by DOT workers who get a firsthand look at unfavorable weather conditions. In the future, Huft is hoping to see a system worked out where police officers can post information on accidents that would affect traffic.
In the meantime, Huft said he expects a biennial DOT phone survey to begin soon. The study randomly will interview between 800 and 1,000 people in the state to learn what improvements can be made to both programs.
Historically, concerns have always revolved around winter weather, and Huft expects the upcoming survey to provide little deviation.
"Ever since we started doing this ... in 1998, the number one travel concern in South Dakota is winter weather," Huft said. "Every survey we've done just reinforces that."