A delivery van rumbling toward Green Bay, Wis., could become a new tool for dealing with traffic congestion. So could a car full of students on a road trip from Milwaukee to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lacking the infrastructure to monitor congestion on intercity roads, Wisconsin's Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is launching two projects, using private-industry technology, to test the use of mobile probes for traffic detection. 

One project combines GPS information captured from private fleet vehicles with data from public sources to get updates on the traffic flow. The other uses data from cell phones to calculate similar information. 

In the Milwaukee metropolitan area and other urban regions around the state, WisDOT installed in-pavement detectors to capture traffic data and networks to move that data to WisDOT's Statewide Traffic Operations Center (TOC) in Milwaukee. The TOC uses the information to manage traffic and inform the public about road conditions -- employing changeable message signs to notify drivers and using Highway Advisory Radio and TV station and radio reports. 

In addition, WisDOT deployed approximately 100 video cameras on the Milwaukee freeway system to help monitor traffic and provide TV news images. Video from about 30 of those cameras is also available on the Web. 

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Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer