Drivers who travel the Route 7 corridor in and out of the Northern Shenandoah Valley will now have access to a key piece of information to help them plan their trips. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) camera that stands atop Mount Weather has finally gone live. The hardware that was installed in March has teased drivers with the prospect of a birds-eye view of the commuting bottleneck that Route 7 represents. The delay as it turns out, was a result of changing technology.
The hardware installation on Mt Weather was completed in March of this year but failed to appear in the system months after completion. The camera is part of the 511 Virginia network that is owned and operated by VDOT. The statewide system provides real-time traffic conditions, route planning, and road conditions that are available by phone or through the internet via computer or smart phone technology. As part of VDOT’s mandate for planning, developing, delivering, operating and maintaining the best possible transportation system for the traveling public, the 511 network is constantly be expanded. It is however not immune to the same kind of evolving technology challenges that every modern endeavor faces and just like adding a new computer to an office network, when technology advances all the pieces still need to work together.
The Mount Weather project turned out to be a leap frog in technology that required some upgrades across the entire system to accommodate the new camera. Sandy Myers, VDOT Public Relations Manager for the Staunton District said, “As with most technology, the technology for the camera can change very rapidly. As we were preparing for purchase and installation of this camera we learned that the camera configuration we had been using in the past is being phased out by the industry.” This put the installation into a transitionary state that ended up delaying the camera’s addition to the network by seven months. The core problem had to do with the way the system transmits video signals back to the data center. “The new camera has a different ‘encoder’ than what we were using up to this point. Once this became evident we had to purchase some new software and hardware to support this evolving technology,” Myers said.
VDOT owns and operates the system but it is managed by a subcontractor who had their own integration issues that needed to be addressed. Myers said the management contractor had to perform their own set up and testing to incorporate the new technology which included upgrading some equipment in the Traffic Operations Center.
With the technology issues solved the new camera is now live and now presents drivers with an excellent view of the the ridge line that is responsible for numerous driving challenges year round. The new camera feed can be viewed here.