The state last week finished installing and activating traffic web cameras on I-5 between Arlington and Everett. This was the only remaining stretch on I-5 from Arlington to Tacoma where people could not see camera views of the freeway.
The state also has finished installing new car-counting loops in the road on I-5 from Everett to Marysville, so people looking at the website can now see the level of congestion on this section of freeway.
Six new cameras were installed on the stretch between Everett and Marysville starting in the fall, said Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
The state recently placed 12 cameras on I-5 in Marysville and Arlington along with the new concrete center barrier, but they couldn't be activated because the fiberoptic connections were not in place.
Now, with the installation of the new cameras, it's all up and running, Mishler said.
"It gives us 16 more miles of visibility on I-5," she said.
The cameras are used for information purposes only, not for law enforcement.
The $1.1 million cost of the new electronics is part of a $3.2 million overall project that included repaving the southbound lanes of I-5 between Marysville and Everett late last summer.
The electronic information is useful both for drivers and for emergency responders.
Drivers can click on any camera icon on the state's Seattle-area traffic map to get the view from that camera. Some point north, some south, and between all the cameras drivers can see what is happening along most of I-5. The views are refreshed on the web every 1 1/2 minutes.
On the map, I-5 is color coded to show the level of congestion, based on information from the loops. Green represents free-flowing traffic, yellow is moderate, red is heavy and black is stop-and-go.
Until this week, the stretch between Everett and Marysville showed up gray, meaning no equipment was installed there. Loops were earlier installed in the highway between Marysville and Arlington during the barrier project and have been working.
Now, drivers can check conditions on the entire stretch between the Stillaguamish River and the Snohomish River and plan around congestion.
With the cameras, state Department of Transportation staff watching monitors at their regional headquarters in Shoreline can see accidents as they develop, and send the state's Incident Response Team sooner, Mishler said.
The team can help clear the scene of minor accidents and quickly close lanes for bigger ones, she said. The team carries gasoline and other equipment in its vans and can help people whose cars have stalled or run out of gas.
Sometimes the van gets to the scene before the State Patrol if it's closer than the nearest trooper, Mishler said.
At a major accident, "we can get people off the road, make sure we can get a lane closure if we need it, then get the State Patrol up there as quickly as possible," she said.
State Trooper Keith Leary said the cameras provide better, more precise information for troopers responding to accidents.
"If we get a collision and it's blocking the freeway, with cameras we can say we definitely need a tow truck, or we definitely need an aid car, there are fuel spills. It gives us more information than just leading the blind."
In snowy or icy weather, cameras show where cars are sliding off the road, so troopers can see the trouble spots, he said.
Also, if someone reports a collision as being worse than it really is, seeing the camera view can help troopers determine this as well, Leary said.
Still, he emphasized that troopers will respond, regardless.
"Whether those cameras are there or not, we're going to show up," Leary said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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