Dust detection and warning system may be in operation by fall 2018

Published: Oct. 13, 2016 at 1:56 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The dust storms that pop up on the stretch of Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix have proven to be deadly in the past.

However there are plans in the works to help keep drivers safe.

It's dust detection system, which means sensors will be put in the ground that can spot dust from a mile away to determine if the storm is serious or not.

Arizona Department of Transportation engineers are working on the design now, focusing first on a 10-mile stretch from Picacho Peak to Eloy.

"It's nice to know if something is going to happen so you can beat the warning," said Paulo Andrade, a frequent I-10 driver.

Andrade and his family drive up to Phoenix quite often and though they have never been caught in the midst of a dust storm, this new project will help keep them safe in case they do.

"Our traffic camera system here will see those images, send them back to our traffic operation center in real time so our operators will see what's going on," said Tom Herrmann, with ADOT. "We'll see, yes there's a dust issue, no there's not."

They'll even have new speed limit signs to allow workers to lower the speed when there's dust. Despite this new innovative technology ADOT officials say drivers still have a big responsibility.

"They have to continue to pay attention, if you see a dust storm, pull aside, stay alive. Stay off the roadway, let the storm pass. It'll only be 10 or 15 minutes in most cases, it'll be out of the way and you can drive safely home," said Herrmann.

This is a $12.8 million project, part of which will be paid for with a $54 million federal FASTLANE grant ADOT received for I-10 projects that also include widening and improving two of the three stretches between Phoenix and Tucson that aren't already three lanes in each direction.

If this sensor project works in this stretch, ADOT officials say this could be expanded to other dust prone areas located on I-10.

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