NDOT in Omaha soon to get upgrade to digital sign transmission

NDOT in Omaha soon to get upgrade to way it sends messages to digital signs

Gary forman manages the people who are responsible for putting up messages on the digital signs high above the Nebraska interstate corridors.

"It's almost daily," said Forman who works for the Nebraska Department of Transportation in Omaha. "If you're around here during the morning or evening rush hour, there is always a crash out there."

He says his computers are now being upgraded with high tech modems that will use a special cell signal to transmit the message.

"[It's] Almost instantaneous now with those, and that's going to help us immensely when we have to get multiple messages out," said Forman.

He says up until this point, the system relied on dial-up, which could take up to a minute or longer to push out the message.

The messages fall understand one of three categories.

The major one, says Forman, is for traffic.

Then there are Amber Alerts.

On Friday's only, public service announcements from Lincoln will show up on the screens.

Jim McGee, who retired from the then Department of Roads, had a key roll in getting the digital signs installed in 2002.

He says at the time, the signs were controlled by a hard-wired phone.

"It was illegal for Nebraska state agencies to use wireless technology at the time," said McGee. "So we had to stop and go to the legislature to get the law changed."

He says years after that, interstate video cameras went up to keep an eye on the ebb and flow of traffic.

Forman tells me all of these advancements have really made things safer for drivers.

"All of this has cut our time back for response immensely, especially since we're here with state patrol," he said.

The Omaha NDOT office says it has 50 digital signs to utilize, and more than half of them are portable.

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