"How are the roads"? It's a question often asked in the Northland. The answer is getting a little more scientific.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation's 511 Travel Information System has been around for a while, offering real-time data and information about the roads and highways around the state. 511 gives users an accurate look at all sorts of useful information - from road and weather conditions to plow locations and traffic congestion - depending on what's available.

That interactive map depends on a statewide network of Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS). Strategically placed at sites throughout the state, these monitors send back the data needed to construct the 511 map. MNDOT describes like this:

"RWIS is an environmental sensor station in the field that is used to collect weather data such as atmospheric parameters, pavement conditions, and visibility. MNDOT uses the information gathered as well as the camera images for maintenance decision support.  The information is also sent to the National Weather Service as well as Minnesota's 511 Traveler Information System."

As part of the plan to continualy make improvements and additions that help with accuracy, MNDOT recently added six new RWIS stations in Northeastern Minnesota - our area - the Northland. Here are the specific sites of those new RWIS stations in Aitkin, Carlton, Itasca, and St. Louis County:

  • Highway 38 near Marcell at MP 27.5
  • Highway 210 near Tamarack at MP 186.3
  • Highway 2 near Gowan at MP 225.1
  • Highway 2 near Cohasset at MP 174.3
  • Highway 53 near Cook at MP 97.5
  • Highway 65 near Buck Lake at MP 192.9

In addition to these new stations in our area, MNDOT also recently installed seven new RWIS stations in Central Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there are currently 153 RWIS systems located throughout Minnesota.

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