The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has made available to the public views from cameras mounted on a few select snowplows via its 511mn.org website.
“The plow cams are another way for travelers to make good decisions about their travel plans during the snow and ice season,” says Kelly Braunig, 511 program manager. “If they go on the 511 site and see that travel is not advised, they can actually see an image of the road the cameras take as the plow is traveling. Seeing is believing.”
The plow views are supplements to the fixed cameras placed at 97 sites across the state available from the Road Weather Information System (RWIS) that’s also part of the 511 program. The benefit of the new cameras is that they offer real-time conditions of roadways as the plow travel.
“The RWIS and plow cameras are both used for maintenance purposes, and the public also benefits,” says Steve Lund, state maintenance engineer. “They give maintenance managers and supervisors a quick snapshot of what’s going on in the field but the plow cams will show the road conditions from the driver’s seat along a route.”
The images are available on the Plow Cameras section of 511mn.org, with live camera feeds indicated by an icon on the map shown. MnDOT says the images are displayed for two hours, and if a new image isn’t taken for 15 minutes, the icon for that snowplow is removed until active.
The agency purchased 200 cameras for this winter season, so the system is primarily in a testing state now, as there are 838 plows in its fleet. If the system is deemed successful, MnDOT will consider adding more cameras to the vehicles.
“All the new features we’re putting on 511 come down to intelligent transportation,” said Braunig. “We want to be on the cutting edge of that. If motorists can just pick one or two features to use, they can make better travel decisions.”