MnDOT's traffic camera command center helps cut response times on Minnesota roads

When the weather gets this cold, you don’t want to end up on the side of the road, but if you do, there’s a chance help may be on the way before you even call.

These quick responses are all thanks to MnDOT’s traffic cameras.

When things get this cold, more cars break down or crash on slick spots, so the folks at MnDOT’s Regional Transportation Management Center are prepared for things to be hectic.

It’s a team effort between MnDOT and the Minnesota State Patrol and they are ready for any kind of call.

Whether you’re moving along or stuck in the middle of traffic, there are eyes in the skies keeping watch, ready to help.

“We’ve got almost 1,000 cameras in the metro on the freeway system as well as some of major highways,” said Brian Kary, the director of traffic operations for RTMC. “We also have cameras in parts of rural Minnesota as well.”

Behind all of those cameras are real people.

“I think it’s definitely a secret most Minnesotans don’t know exists,” added Kary. “They probably drive by the building all the time. We’re right here off Hwy. 36, but they don’t realize the coordination taking place.”

Inside the RTMC is ground zero when it comes to monitoring the roads.

“It’s great for us to have this technology and I think it’s great to have this too, because it’s a good service for the taxpayers,” said Lt. Gordon Shank, of the Minnesota State Patrol.

The team has seen it all from car crashes, to debris clean-up and dispatching snowplows.

“It cuts down on response time for us and the communications is key here,” Shank added. “We’re able to respond quicker because we have a one-team effort here.”

A quick response time, says Shank, is crucial when crashes or stalls happen in dangerous temperatures.

“A lot of people call 911, but they don’t know exactly where they are,” Shank said. “They might say, ‘I’m on 35W, south of Minneapolis and we can find precisely where they are.”

Those MnDOT cameras are also available right on your phone, so you can check the road conditions no matter what the weather is.

As the cold weather settles in, drivers need to make sure they’re aware of current conditions.

“I think the biggest thing for us is the salt doesn’t work as well in those temps, so I think it’s good for the public to kind of be aware of that and then also it doesn’t take much precipitation to really start to freeze those roadways,” Shank said.

You’ve probably heard this before, but the State Patrol and MnDOT say, in these frigid temperatures, they most often see battery and tire issues, so make sure everything is good to go before you hit the road.