The next time you zip down Kellogg, K-96 or I-135, smile.
You are on an award-winning camera system.
In fact, that camera system known as Wichway and maintained by the Kansas Department of Transportation is now considered one of the best systems in the region.
The Missouri Valley Section of the Institute of Transportation recently recognized the 22-mile system on some of Wichitas busiest roads for outstanding achievement in transportation engineering.
The organization has more than 600 members in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
We are honored, said Wichway manager Tom Hein. It is important to us for someone to say good job.
Wichitas camera system includes 28 circuit cameras, 21 message signs, and 36 traffic sensors that monitor traffic.
The system was originally tested in 2009 with the first phase being installed in 2010. It was finished in November last year, Hein said. Combined with a website, it was designed with drivers in mind. As the cameras monitor traffic, signs let them know what lies ahead. The cameras are monitored by a traffic management center that is located with Sedgwick County 911 operators.
Our real mission is to let people know about congestion and accidents that have already occurred, Hein said. We want to prevent secondary accidents.
But it also helps area law enforcement, fire and medical responders to safely and quickly get into the accident areas.
We would like to see the incident clearing happening faster to get rescue and clean-up crews in faster, Hein said. The follow-up work, depending on the severity of an accident can take between two to three hours. And, we want to get traffic flowing back to normal as fast as possible.
Because the traffic management center is located with Sedgwick County 911, Hein said, the two groups can quickly monitor and size up the traffic situations.
Before the dispatcher didnt have a method of interacting and helping in an accident, Hein said. Now, they can look at things and suggest to the emergency responder the best way of getting into an accident scene.
The website also allows drivers ahead of time to assess what route they will take and make choices based on scenes of traffic if theyd like to take a different route.
What we are doing is empowering the drivers. It allows us to increase our traffic capacity without adding more lanes, Hein said. It allows us to use what lanes we have smarter.
Funding for the project came from four sources: $2 million from the federal government; $6 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation; and $720,000 apiece from the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County.
Future plans include placing more cameras and traffic sensors on K-96 from I-135 to Greenwich Road and eventually on I-135 and U.S. 54, as well as an improved website in 2013.
Along with K-DOT, the Wichway project includes partnerships with the city of Wichita Public Works, Sedgwick County Public Works, Federal Highway Administration, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Turnpike Authority, Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Wichita Police Department, Wichita Fire Department, Sedgwick County Sheriffs Office, Sedgwick County Fire Department and Sedgwick County 911 Emergency Communications.