ELOY, Arizona (KGUN) – Dust storms can happen anytime in the state, but the Arizona Department of Transportation says this first-of-its-kind technology will hopefully help save lives.
“We are ready for the 2021 monsoon season,” said Garin Groff.
Groff of the Arizona Department of Transportation says drivers will surely see this once they pass a 10-mile section on I-10 between Picacho and Eloy.
“It is an automated system that can detect when dust begins to impair visibility,” he told KGUN 9.
Groff says the key to the $ 6.5 million system is 13 visibility detectors.
“They use rays of light to detect dust particles in the air. Once that happens, the system will automatically activate the variable speed limit signs and reduce the regular speed limit from 75 to 35, ”he added.
The variable speed limit is legally enforceable.
The most visible element of the system is a large white dome on top of a 20-foot tower that sits at the intersection of I-10 and State Route 87.
“This is a weather radar, and ADOT shares this information with the National Weather Service so they have specific real-time information on what’s going on in the area,” said meteorologist Ken Drozd.
Drozd works with the National Weather Service in Tucson.
This tower can detect a storm up to 40 miles away, something it believes will be of benefit to the National Weather Service.
“Hopefully this will complement the radars we currently have in Phoenix and one in South Tucson. It’s the one roughly halfway between the two weather service radars, ”added Drozd.
There are also four surveillance cameras along the route that feed live videos into ADOT’s traffic control center in Phoenix.
This gives them real-time information on traffic flow and conditions.
“Dust storms can lead to zero visibility if you can’t really see where you are going,” said Drozd.
“This is about giving the drivers more reaction time,” added Groff.
Response time is important, especially since dust storms have been proven deadly.
“Our best advice when driving in a dust storm is not to drive in a dust storm. If you see a big wall of dust, get off the freeway ASAP, ”said Groff.
“Get off the road as far as possible. And then stop your car, park, take your foot off the brakes and turn off the lights. In this way, other vehicles behind you cannot see your taillights and could hit you, ”Drozd told KGUN 9.
Regardless of the technology on the street, Groff says nothing replaces common sense.
“Nothing can replace common sense. Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially on this section of I-10 on windy days or during the monsoons, which run from mid-June to early September, ”said Groff.