Dust storm detecting system could help keep drivers safe


COOLIDGE, AZ - As you drive on the westbound Interstate 10 driving from Tucson to Phoenix. You’ll notice major highway construction at the I-10 and State Route 87 interchange between Eloy and Picacho.

Crews are improving the interchange and expanding the I-10 into six lanes.

The third phase of the construction project will be installing a state-of-the-art dust detecting system along the nine-mile corridor.

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“The dust detection zone is really an innovative, one-of-a-kind project that will help us identify when dust is making visibility,” said Tom Herrmann, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). “We'll have short-range radar to give us visibility along the freeway. We'll have long-range radar to tell us what's coming. We'll be able to get that message out to drivers much more quickly.”

Electronic message boards will be used to alert drivers. Variable speed limit signs will be able to reduce the speed limit down from 75 mph to 35 mph.

Closed circuit cameras will also be installed to help ADOT monitor the dust in real time.

Herrmann said between 2010 and 2015, of the 85 dust-related crashes, 43 happened in the area between Eloy and Picacho.

“Right now, if you’re driving on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson and there is a dust storm, you usually find out about that 30 seconds before you hit the dust storm because we’ll have this radar out there. We’ll be able to get this message out to drivers much more quickly,” said Herrmann.

While the alert systems are improving, Herrmann said the burden is still on the drivers to do the right thing and pull off the road to let the dust storm pass by.