Site helps Twin Cities drivers get around

Commuters in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area can turn to a comprehensive new Web site to check on traffic before they hit the roadways.

Launched Sept. 5 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation's local Traffic Management Center, the site provides a detailed, color-coded congestion map updated every minute. Incident icons and road construction information indicate trouble spots.

A text version of the information is available, but it only lists incidents, such as ramp closures or accidents, and does not indicate general traffic patterns as the map does.

The site gathers traffic information from more than 3,700 road-embedded sensors that measure speed, traffic volume and occupancy rates. The site also gathers information from 230 closed-circuit TV cameras posted along 210 miles of freeways. Seventy percent of the metro area is linked to this traffic management system, with full coverage scheduled by 2007.

The Traffic Management Center shares its data with other media, traffic information providers and Web sites in the Twin Cities, but those outlets exercise their own editorial judgment and style guidelines about how and when to display the information, said Robin Bellamy, a TMC spokeswoman. The Minnesota DOT's traffic site was developed to make sure all the information was available in real time, she said.

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