Interstate 10 dust storm early warning system nearly complete

Dust safety on highways

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Workers are putting the finishing touches on a one of a kind dust storm early warning system on Interstate 10 between mile posts 210 to 219.

The system will include radar, roadway sensors, closed-circuit cameras and digital speed limit signs.

It also includes a weather system which will be able to detect storms which are up to 40 miles away from the interstate in all directions.

“No one has taken all of these technologies and put them together in a way that can detect dust,” said Darin Groff, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. “It will warn drivers and help slow them down and get through the area more safely.”

It’s a concern because there have been several multi-fatal accidents from Picacho Peak to Eloy in the past few years, nearly all of them because of blowing dust.

But also, because drivers frequently don’t know a dust storm is in the area or how to react once they get into one.

“The best way to travel through a dust storm is to not travel through a dust storm,” Groff said.

It’s best to get off the roadway, turn off the lights and take the foot off the brake to wait for the dust storm to pass.

But many drivers don’t, travel too fast for conditions, then wind up in a serious accident.

With the new system, the sensors will slow drivers down depending on the severity of the storm.

The digital speed limits signs range from 75 on the top end, all the way down to 35 piles per hour.

Even if motorists get into an accident at that speed, the chance of survival is much better.

“This is an area where a number of crashes have happened,” Groff said. “That’s why it was chosen for this pilot program.”

The state says if it works here, it will be used in other high wind, dust prone areas around the state.

The cost of the system is $6.4 million.

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