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TDOT ramping up parts of I-26 and I-81 technology for Tri-Cities drivers

KEVIN CASTLE • Aug 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Chris Moore with Moore Mechanical Contracting connects a solar power panel to a sign along Interstate 26 near Exit 10 recently. A blue Highway Advisory Sign immediately below the lights urge motorists to tune to 1620 AM for an important message. Photo by Erica Yoon


A $2 million investment by the Tennessee Department of Transportation is being installed in Sullivan and Washington counties to keep motorists better informed.

The project, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation District 1 spokesperson Travis Brickey, is to link a portion of the Tri-Cities into the agency’s SmartWay intelligent transportation system.

Covered electronic signs currently stand along the shoulder of Interstate 26 near the Washington County/Sullivan County border to inform motorists of impending delays due to accidents or construction. They will be unveiled in late September.

The project will also include two dynamic message boards on Interstate 81, one in the southbound lane near Colonial Heights, and the other in the northbound lane between the Fall Branch and Tri Cities Crossing exits.

The SmartWay system infrastructure will also include a highway advisory radio transmitter being constructed at the Interstate 81/26 interchange that will broadcast low frequency highway information at 1620 on your car stereo AM dial.

“We also plan to use (the sign) for any pertinent Amber alerts that would go out,” Brickey.

All data transmitted on the boards will originate from a transportation management braincenter based in Knoxville. The center has a wall covered in television monitors that display images from 70 cameras in Knoxville that monitor traffic flow and speed.

There is a push to get more locations along Tennessee’s interstate system locked in to the SmartWay monitor, which can be accessed on the Internet prior to journey.

Brickey said similar projects are underway in Anderson, Campbell, Jefferson, Cumberland, and Roane counties and in Whitley County, Ky. at Jellico Mountain.

“It will all work hand in hand with our 511 system that we established last year. Motorists can dial 511 on their cell phones to get up to date information on projects that may impact their travel route. We want to try and keep the motorist informed, so we covered the bases,” said Brickey.

The signs will not be operational to give messages to drivers and fans arriving for the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks, but Brickey says the signs will be a handy tool for race fans to use when they return in the spring.

Brickey also said the signs will aid motorists traveling from the Tri-Cities to Knoxville beginning in 2008 when portions of Interstate 40 in the city will be closed for 14 months to complete one of the most expensive construction projects in the department’s history.

Learn more about TDOT SmartWay by visiting todot.state.tn.us

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