State Transportation Board approves multi-million dollar wrong-way detection project

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Arizona's State Transportation Board has approved a multi-million dollar wrong-way vehicle detection project, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

According to a statement released Monday, the $3.7 million project, hailed by ADOT as a "first-in-the-nation" thermal detection system, was approved on Friday afternoon, but still requires approval from the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council.

The vote came just days after Governor Doug Ducey asked ADOT to accelerate the system's construction, after a spate of wrong-way crashes, with one on June 6 resulting in two fatalities.

Construction of the system, according to ADOT officials, is expected to begin in the fall on I-17, from I-10 to Loop 101, but officials said they are exploring ways to begin construction even sooner. A full installation is expected to take seven months, and future expansion will reportedly be guided by the performance of this project.

The system, according to the statement, will do three things, which involves alerting wrong-way drivers, warning right-way drivers, and notifying law enforcement. When a wrong-way driver is detected, alerts will be triggered, including illuminated signs with flashing lights. The system will also warn other drivers, via overhead message boards, and traffic cameras will automatically turn to face the wrong way vehicle, to enable better tracking.

ADOT officials, however, concede in the statement that while the system can reduce the risk of wrong-way driving, it cannot prevent it.