Technology aims to encourage tourists driving

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Capital News Service
LANSING— A new website is working to boost the tourism industry by helping people plan their travel.
MiDrive is a traffic website with an interactive map showing warnings for travelers, said Barbara Hicks, a public affairs representative at the Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“The idea is to put all the information of travel on the website and tourists can use it to plan their routes,” Hicks said.
The interactive map includes construction barrels users can click on for information about that location, such as when the construction will end, said Hicks.
“You can search the construction site by counties as well, which makes it every easy for tourists to plan where they want to travel,” Hicks said.
The other elements of the site include weather updates by ZIP codes, traffic incidents and traffic cameras.
“The cameras are called road weather information system cameras in Detroit, Grand Rapids and parts of the Upper Peninsula,” Hicks said.
The cameras take video of a particular section of road so drivers can click on where they want to go and watch a video of what it is happening there.
“There are currently 12 cameras in the Upper Peninsula,” Hicks said. “MDOT plans to expand the website within the next year.”
According to Hicks, the website is going cellular and a new mobile version will be introduced in May.
“Any smart phone can get it and it will have the majority of the features from the main site,” Hicks said.
There are now nine traffic websites among the states, and Michigan will have the tenth.
Dave Lorenz, managing director at Travel Michigan, is working with MDOT to create the interactive website. Travel Michigan is the state’s official tourism promotion agency.
“The website is tied in with the new state map,” Lorenz said. “We’re trying to make easier access to travel and activities by using technology.”
According to Lorenz, the website will make traveling more enjoyable and efficient.
“It’s all about ease of travel. We want tourists to get to their place comfortably,” Norton said. “There are more construction projects in the summer, which is when the highest number of tourists travel in the state, so this website will really help the traveler then.”
Another MDOT project is called mobility analysis, and it also encourages safer and more efficient traveling, according to Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT.
“We are working with new projects and ideas to boost the tourism industry and in turn, help the state’s economy,” Steudle said. “One way we’re doing this is mobility analysis.”
“The mobility analysis helps keeps roads open while construction is underway,” Steudle said. “We are enabling people to move around by watching the travel patterns in different parts of the state.”
According to Steudle, the northern part of the state works on heavy construction projects Monday through Thursday because more people travel on the weekends.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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