This rabbit running across a snowy by-way in the high country would know the condition of the road, but you might not as you approach it. That's why UDOT has set up CommuterLink, a system of sensors, cameras and signs to let drivers know about traffic and road conditions around the state. While the cameras are not everywhere, they continually grow in number as the agency tries to paint the clearest picture possible for motorists.
They say that a photo is worth a thousand words, but it could also lead to a hundred less worries if it's taken at the right time and in the right place.
It wasn't that many years ago that to find out conditions on roads out of Carbon County one had to call the Utah Department of Transportation road conditions line and count on verbal observations to figure out whether to cross high mountain passes or not. Those recorded reports were sometimes old and sometimes inaccurate. Often one said to themselves, "If only someone had a camera there and I could see what it is like."
With the advent of digital photography and wireless communications, that daydream has come true. Now on most of the states major highways and byways, at least somewhere along the line, cameras that take real time photos are on and clicking away. And all one has to do is get on the internet to see these revealing photos.
But the word about this service has not spread as well as officials would have liked. Across the state, dispatch centers get clogged up on days of bad weather with calls asking about road conditions. Those calls take up valuable time, time that can be utilized for emergencies and other duties.
There is also more to it than just cameras. The system is called commuterlink. According to UDOT, CommuterLink is Utah's traffic authority. More than 400 overhead traffic cameras and 600 in-road traffic sensors are constantly capturing photographs, video and traffic data on all major Utah Department of Transportation roads. The photos, videos and traffic data on this website, are used by UDOT CommuterLink, local news, national organizations and other information sources to communicate Utah's traffic status to the public.
CommuterLink has invested in this advanced system to capture and distribute traffic information in an attempt to make driving in Utah more efficient and less frustrating. In partnership with many media sources, CommuterLink is committed to forge ahead with more traffic cameras, more intelligent data and more traffic solutions for Utah's growing driver population.
With a click of the mouse one can see what the traffic and road conditions are like in downtown Salt Lake or in a remote area such as along Highway 191 between Flaming Gorge and Rock Spring, Wyo. Residents can look what the summit at the top of Indian Canyon looks like or view I-70 in Richfield.
The cameras, whose number continues to grow along the states byways, are like a scout that can tell you whether a road is safe to travel or not. It can tell you if a traffic jam in Utah County is really as bad as the radio says it is or whether that snow that is falling in Price is actually also falling on Soldiers Summit.
On top of that, other states have done the same thing. Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado all have cameras along many of their highways too, that can be accessed through their departments of transportation as well. For instance, Wyoming has cameras from the port of entry near Evanston on I-80 clear through Pine Bluff where that interstate enters Nebraska. Wyoming even allows up to three views of each site; coming, going and a snapshot of the road from the side.
It is amazing technology that is changing peoples lives and is keeping many out of trouble.
To access the Utah site you can go to the Sun Advocate website (sunad.com) and go to the link dubbed Commuterlink.