New (Idaho DOT) 511 traveler services feature provides near real-time highway traffic-delay information

Idaho Transportation Department News Release, 23 May 2016
Steve Grant, Public Information Specialist (208-334-8874)

BOISE — Idaho Transportation Department’s 511 traveler services has provided valuable information for motorists about highway conditions statewide and potential travel delays since it first rolled out in 2005.

Now, drivers can learn how long a simple morning commute could be delayed with just a couple of mouse clicks. A new feature recently added to Idaho’s 511 traveler services allows users to find out just how long current events may delay their drive in near real time.

“Idaho’s 511 system has had access to Google Traffic Speed information for some time,” said Tony Ernest, ITD’s 511 manager. “It is possible at any given time to ask Google to give us the travel time between any two points. Google returns how long it takes to travel the distance, both under ideal conditions and under current conditions. Simple math provides the current delay.”

“For each event in 511 with the potential to create a traffic delay, we automatically and periodically check the traffic speeds behind that event,” Ernest explained. “If a delay is detected, the 511 system automatically modifies the event to show how long it is.”

The event icon is given a highly visible orange “glow” on the Full Feature version of ITD’s 511 website, to represent that it is currently causing delays. The event description is automatically updated to describe the length of the current delay. This information is regularly updated every 15 minutes.  Once the delay goes away, the event returns to normal.

Currently, this is only implemented for construction, maintenance and incidents, like crashes for example, on Idaho’s interstates.

“Theoretically, this can work on any highway that gets sufficient traffic, and that has sufficient cell coverage for Google Traffic Speed to have meaningful live information,” Ernest said. “We are looking to expand this to all U.S. highways, and to a few key state highways in Idaho. We are also working on using this new technology to report live traffic delays for recurrent rush-hour congestion, and for delays associated with winter storms. The potential for this innovative technology is huge.”

The new live delay information is only displayed on the Full Feature version of ITD’s 511 website.  In the future, the hope is to expand this capability into the department’s 511 smartphone app, and into the streamlined version of the 511 website.

Questions? Visit us online at, follow ITD on Twitter (@IdahoITD) or Facebook and check travel conditions at or dial 5-1-1. Please slow down in highway construction zones and pay attention. Safety for drivers and workers is our highest priority.

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