MnDOT working on new tech to warn drivers of icy roads

Lasers will sense how slick roads are on Highway 12 and alert drivers.

In the coming days, thermometers in the Twin Cities are set to drop below zero, making for brutal conditions for people who have to go outside but also creating potentially hazardous driving conditions.

But, MnDOT is rolling new technology that, in the future, they hope will help alert drivers to slick roads.

On a six-mile stretch of Highway 12 between Maple Plain and Delano, MnDOT is testing the new warning system that will let motorists know when the road is slippery.

Ten sensors in the area use lasers to measure friction on the pavement and then relay that information to two electronic message boards and several more yellow signs with flashing beacons on them.

They are all activated if any of the sensors detect that roads are slippier than normal.

"It's something new we want to try," said MnDOT spokesperson Ann Meyer. "With technology and as it changes, this might give us some opportunities in some areas. So we're going to see how this works for some time and see how it adjusts with the weather. We see a lot of weather activity in Minnesota, so we'll be learning a lot from this stretch and then looking at maybe how it can be applied elsewhere."

That system will get a good test when the snow starts to fall overnight in the metro. MnDOT crews will also be on the roads working to keep them clear.