The state Department of Transportation has enhanced one of its more popular online features, adding 21 traffic cameras on Interstate 5 from Samish Way in Bellingham to the Canada border. The new cameras started working Thursday, Dec. 13.
Before, cameras were concentrated in Bellingham and at the border, leaving gaps in the available views of I-5. There were no cameras on a section of highway more than 10 miles along, from Smith Road to Loomis Trail Road. Thirteen cameras have been added to that stretch.
"Getting cameras in that blind spot is going to make a huge difference" to travelers, said DOT spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler. Drivers frequently access the cameras on the DOT website during storms, or after word of a traffic-blocking crash.
The older cameras were prone to malfunctioning, so the new ones will make views along the interstate more reliable, Mishler said.
The $5.3 million project, begun in the spring and still being wrapped up, involved more than placing cameras. A contractor laid 15 miles of fiber-optic cable, which occasionally reduced traffic to one lane.
Workers also installed magnetic "traffic loops" under the pavement at 14 locations, to improve another popular feature, the color-coded traffic map on the DOT website. The map, which gives nearly instant information on traffic volume, only included a two-mile stretch in Bellingham, and the border area. The project fills the gap between Meridian Street and Blaine.
The new areas on the color-coded map should be available by the end of the year, Mishler said.
The project was fully funded with federal money set aside for highway work near international borders.
ON THE WEB
Cameras and traffic-flow information from Bellingham to the border is online at wsdot.com/traffic/Bellingham.