ADOT Starts Work on I-10 Dust Detection System

This graphic shows the major components of a dust storm detection and warning system set to be installed on Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

A detection and warning system on the road between Tucson and Phoenix could soon give drivers advance notice of dangerous dust storms.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said this month that it's beginning design work on a network of sensors, overhead electronic message boards and programmable signs for a section of Interstate 10 near Picacho. That area sees numerous dust storms, particularly during the summer monsoon.

Once the system is operational, roadside sensors will be able to detect blowing dust a mile or more away, ADOT said in a news release. When dust is detected, it will trigger an alert on the electronic message boards over the highway, and programmable speed-limit signs will be able to temporarily reduce the speed limit on that stretch of I-10 to as slow as 35 mph (down from the normal 75 mph) during the dust storm.

Additionally, in-pavement sensors will report the speed and flow of traffic, ADOT said.

The department plans to begin installing the $12.8 million system late next summer between mileposts 209, near Eloy, and 219, near Picacho Peak. It could be in operation by the fall of 2018.

If the system is a success, ADOT could use the technology in other areas, such as farther southeast on I-10, where blowing dust led to several closures and a speed-limit reduction this year. Parts of Interstate 40 that are prone to dust storms could be targeted as well.

Whether there's a warning system in place or not, it's important to know how to stay safe during a dust storm. To learn more about that, click here.

Add new comment