ADOT partnering with DPS to manage traffic incidents

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- There is now an extra set of eyes keeping tabs on the Arizona Department of Transportation cameras along Valley freeways.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officers are now working side-by-side with ADOT personnel inside the traffic operations center to monitor what's happening out on the roadways and jump in when needed to manage accidents.

On Wednesday, 3TV got a look at how it works.

"We can see that there's disabled vehicles with heavy collision damage in the area and then we have the ability to immediately talk to the field officers," said DPS Sgt. John Paul Cartier.

This partnership is part of a three-year pilot program equally funded by ADOT and the Maricopa County Association of Governments.

The cost is $450,000 for the first year and $425,000 for subsequent years.

Once it is fully up and running, there will be a total of three DPS officers and a supervisor spread out to cover peak traffic times.

"We will reduce the duration and impacts of traffic accidents, we'll reduce the occurrence of secondary collisions, and, as you've heard, we will improve the safety of motorists, crash victims and emergency responders," said ADOT Director John Halikowski.

All of that, officials say, will be accomplished by essentially cutting out the middle man. Before this program, responding officers were often times receiving second- or even third-hand information about incidents.

"Now, we can talk directly to them, so the responding officer can immediately receive a message from us indicating what type of scene he or she is going to, and we have the resources to support them going to that scene as well," Cartier said.

Whether that's EMTs, tow trucks or any other resources that that particular collision might require, all of it helps to clear things up quicker, which will not only help other drivers out with their commutes but could decrease their risk of being in a subsequent crash.

"For every minute traffic is disrupted, the risk of another collision occurring in the backup increases 2.8 percent," said Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Karla Petty.

DPS Director Robert Halliday says it is important to have officers who have experience in the field handling these kinds of incident in this role, versus trying to train an ADOT employee to do it, for example.

"I think that the resources that this center now has from DPS will pay multiple dividends out on the road in terms of getting these accidents cleared, getting the roadways cleared and making it a safe environment," Halliday said.

Although the partnership was just announced on Wednesday, we're told officers have been in place in the operations center for the last two months helping out with incidents such as the flooding on Interstate 10 in September.

This is a pilot program, so steps will be taken throughout the course of the three years to keep tabs on how it's working and data collected to see how it's impacting the freeways and, of course, drivers.

"In this case, there will be measurements that we will employ to ensure that the investment is giving us a good return," Halikowski said.