PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Arizona Department of Public Safety says a new dust detection and warning system along a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Eloy and Picacho should be online in the next few weeks. "To our knowledge, no other department of transportation has put all of these systems together," said ADOT spokesperson Garin Groff.
The area between Phoenix and Tucson has long been known as a dusty drive. Monsoon storms create towering walls of airborne dirt and sand, plus ADOT says conditions in the area create what’s called a “dust channel.”
But soon, radar will track storms, and sensors along the route will detect dust density. The first 1,000 feet of the system will have variable speed limit signs. They will give drivers the heads up, “and quickly get them to reduce their speeds so they can get through this area more safely,” Groff said. Drivers will be asked to adjust their speeds from 75 mph to as slow as 35 mph when dust is blowing. Additional signs are placed every 2 miles after that first section.
Overhead message boards will also alert drivers to the dust. In addition, closed-circuit cameras will allow staff at ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center to see the conditions in real-time, and in-pavement sensors will report the speed and flow of traffic.
The warning system also includes a weather radar, which is mounted on a 20-foot tower at the State Route 87 interchange in Eloy, that can detect storms more than 40 miles away.
“There’s a lot of technology on this 10-mile corridor, but none of it replaces common sense,” Groff said.
If the $6.5 million project works out here, it could be expanded to other parts of the state.
“This is a pilot program,” Groff said. “So, we will be looking at the performance of the dust detection and warning system.”
The prototype system is expected to begin operating in the coming weeks between mileposts 209 and 219.
For additional information on dust storms and safety, including what to do if caught in blowing dust, please visit PullAsideStayAlive.org