Lake County plow tracking features real-time information
Anyone considering driving in Lake County when its snowing can get a real-time look at road conditions from a front-row seat.
A new feature introduced by the Lake County Division of Transporation through its PASSAGE system lets travelers see how plows are faring in clearing county roads of snow and ice.
Viewers also can see the direction a plow is heading, its speed, and whether the front plow is up and the salt spreader is on.
Photos taken by cameras installed on the plows are updated every three minutes and posted as a snapshot of conditions on a given stretch.
"We think it's good information for the public and good information to see during a snowstorm," said Ryan Legare, traffic management center manager.
The typical snow season begins in mid-November, but the system already has been live several times, beginning with the unusual snowstorm on Halloween.
The feature is available through the PASSAGE website and apps for iPhone and Android users.
"We've gotten a ton of great feedback," spokesman Alex Carr said.
The division for a few years has tracked plows by an automatic vehicle location system and used the information internally for a variety of purposes, such as determining routes and gauging efficiencies. The next step was to install a camera on each plow and make the information available to the public.
Foremen find it useful as well.
"It gives them a new vantage point," maintenance supervisor Eric Lostrocio said.
The new snowplow tracker allows users to monitor plows on all 26 routes, which encompass 840 lane miles of county roads. For reference, a milelong stretch of two-lane road would equal 2 lane miles.
County roads, such as Butterfield Road, which runs from Libertyville through Mundelein to Vernon Hills, are marked with five-sided blue and gold route markers.
For many years, travelers have been able to view major intersections on the PASSAGE system, which has grown to 400 traffic signal cameras.
Snowplow tracking expands that to see where plow trucks are working and view current road conditions, Legare explained in a video explaining the new feature.
The system applies only to county roads, as neither the Illinois Department of Transportation nor individual communities have that capability.
There should be ample opportunity to give Lake County's system a try. Last winter, Lake County recorded 60 inches of snow, well above the average 36 inches. Plows were called out 72 times for the 2018-19 snow season.
This season, Lake County and northern Illinois have equal chances of above normal, near normal or below normal temperatures and a higher than normal chance of above normal precipitation, according to the Division of Transportation.