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SHA to expand patrols, add cameras on highways

The State Highway Administration will spend nearly $15 million in the next six years to expand overnight patrols and increase the number of traffic cameras operating along major highways across the state.

The changes will enable quicker assistance to drivers who become stranded or are involved in accidents, decreasing the impact on traffic, SHA Administrator Melinda Peters said Tuesday.

"What we found is, if we can clear an overnight incident prior to rush hour, it makes a huge difference for people commuting," Peters said.

The changes come after an eight-week pilot program that showed substantial need for roadside assistance overnight, Peters said.

Crews patrolling highways for accidents and other problems in the Baltimore and Washington areas will now operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the SHA said. Other areas will continue under the 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekday schedule, though resources can be shifted during major incidents.

In 2013, SHA patrol crews — supplemented by two crews provided by sponsor State Farm — assisted more than 26,500 motorists and supported traffic control at nearly 17,500 incidents, the SHA said.

Peters said the extended patrol hours will result in about $1 million in additional operating costs per year, which the agency has worked into its budget for the next six years under the state's forthcoming consolidated transportation plan.

In addition to the expanded patrols, the agency will install 74 new traffic cameras in the next two years, adding to the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team network of nearly 300 cameras operated in the state by the SHA and hundreds maintained by partner agencies.

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