- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

The D.C. Department of Transportation is using a network of cameras to coordinate snow-removal efforts, monitor contractors and get roadwork crews to respond faster to accidents and signal failures.
Yesterday, The Washington Times toured the Transportation Management Center and Snow Management Center dubbed the "Snow Room" with agency director Dan Tangherlini. Both facilities use seven cameras that have been operating for the past six months.
Transportation officials said they are quickly learning the value of the real-time data these cameras provide.
"One of the unforeseen advantages was our ability to monitor the performance of our contractor, VMS Inc., and our own work in clearing streets during the snowstorms," Mr. Tangherlini said.
Transportation officials were able to quickly direct VMS and D.C. DOT crews to streets that were missed and those that needed a second pass with plows and salt after last week's storm, he said.
When finalized, the system will incorporate 100 cameras at a cost of $3.5 million. Mr. Tangherlini said $21 million from the federal government's homeland-defense funding was spent developing the system and installing the cameras. "It will be three to five years before the system is completed," he said.
The system can now monitor nine intersections: New York Avenue at Florida Avenue NE and Fourth Street NW, the Key Bridge at M Street NW, K Street at 17th Street and Connecticut Avenue NW, Kenilworth Avenue at Eastern Avenue NE, South Capitol Street at M Street, and the inbound lanes on the 14th Street Bridge.
Mr. Tangherlini said the city can use the Internet to tap into Maryland and Virginia transportation cameras to monitor several routes coming into the District. Those routes include the 14th Street Bridge and Key Bridge.
The goal, Mr. Tangherlini said, is to have a system in which the three jurisdictions can monitor and share information on every major street. Eventually, he said, visitors, commuters and residents will be able to use the Internet to tap into the city's camera feeds to determine the best routes to take to get in and out of the District during rush hour.
"We would like to set it up so people can get traffic information using a dedicated radio station and 511," he said.
Mr. Tangherlini said privacy concerns about the cameras being used for more than just watching traffic were dealt with earlier.
"We're not zooming in on anything, not even license plates. We just want to see where people are going and how to get them there faster," he said.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, praised D.C. DOT for establishing regulations to protect civil liberties before the cameras began operating. "The contract for the 100 cameras was approved a month ago in large part because they promised and did come up with a thorough list of regulations," she said.
Transportation officials alerted the council almost a year ago about their plans to build the network of 100 transportation cameras unlike Metropolitan Police Department officials who in 2000 slipped past the council a contract that would enable them to install a network of 14 surveillance cameras. Those cameras were operating for months without the knowledge of most residents and council members.
The Metropolitan Police Department activated its cameras on September 11 and have since used them to monitor protests, monuments and federal buildings.
Although security concerns were paramount after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, their aftereffects opened the eyes of D.C. officials to woeful traffic-management inadequacies.
"Coming out of 9/11. we had two issues: We found we didn't have enough information coming in, and certainly not enough getting out to motorists," Mr. Tangherlini said.
With real-time information, he said, the hope is that the system will help people evacuate the city faster and more safely if another terrorist attack occurs.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide