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Caltrans and California Highway Patrol unveil US$12 million fog-warning project

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Caltrans have unveiled a joint US$12 million Fog Pilot Program, which will warn drivers that they are approaching hazardous fog conditions. Roadside weather stations and sensors for traffic and fog are now in place along a 20km (12 mile) stretch of Highway 99, south of Fowler, to help prevent accidents in the Valley’s notorious Tule fog. The 20km area extends from Fowler to just south of the Kings River, south of Kingsburg.

Information from the six weather stations, 22 visibility sensors and 41 traffic sensors will be fed to 39 electronic variable message signs (VMS) along the highway. When the sensors register visibility at less than 150m (500ft), the message boards will alert drivers to foggy conditions. When the visibility drops to 60m (20f0ft) or less, the warning will be posted for dense fog. The system is monitored at the Caltrans traffic management center on Olive Avenue near Highway 99.

Left: Roadside weather stations and sensors for traffic and fog are now in place along a 12-mile stretch of Highway 99 south of Fowler to help prevent deadly accidents in the valley's notorious Tule fog

“November is traditionally the start of the fog season,” explains Brian Everson, acting director of Caltrans District 6. “Fog is statistically the worst weather condition to drive in, and each year it causes accidents on Highway 99. The danger of Tule fog is that it changes location and intensity.” The newly installed technology will provide “better real-time road conditions to reduce accidents in low visibility”, he adds. “But the true key to success will be if the program helps drivers be more cautious in the fog.”

“What you can’t see, can kill you,” says CHP commander, Captain Roy Huerta.

 

November 9, 2009

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