New Travel Info Hotline, 5-1-1
by Wyoming Department of Transportation
October 9, 2006
Obtaining travel information in Wyoming is now as easy as dialing "5-1-1," as a result of WYDOT's recent implementation of a new travel information telephone service. Regular reporting of road conditions for the cold-weather season began Sunday, Oct. 1.
A notable change accompanying the switch to 511 from the previous Wyoming Road Report is the addition of a voice recognition function. Callers can now choose to speak their responses when prompted by the system, or they can enter the response by pressing numbers on the telephone keypad.
At the outset, not all phone companies in Wyoming are making it possible for their customers to reach 511, but WYDOT is working on agreements with those companies to bring about full coverage.
Meanwhile, the 888-WYO-ROAD (888-996-7623) toll-free phone number is still available for Wyoming callers to connect to 511. The toll-free number can also be used by out-of-state callers. The old local access number 307-772-0824 is no longer available for travel information. Callers who dial that number will hear a message redirecting them to the toll-free number.
Wyoming's new 511 system offers other advantages, including substantially increased call capacity, reducing the possibility of receiving a busy signal, even during major storms.
Callers will first hear about any road closures or advisories which are in effect. They then have the option of hearing a condition report for a road which they can specify by route number.
An enhancement offered by the new 511 system is the automatic combination of condition reports, which will reduce repetition and shorten call times. Previously, callers had to listen to the condition report for each section along a route, even when the conditions were the same for several consecutive sections. By contrast, 511 automatically combines consecutive sections when conditions are the same, saving time, particularly for relatively long routes such as Interstate 80.
WYDOT's internet version of 511 is available at www.wyoroad.info.
"Our new system has some complexities which have required a great amount of time and effort to develop, and we're still working out a few remaining technical issues," WYDOT's Vince Garcia said. "But it's at a point where we the public can begin using and learning the new system, and we are already looking at future additions and improvements to the system."
An important point to remember is that excessive background noise can interfere with the voice response system. Also, the system may have trouble recognizing certain route numbers, in which case, an entry via the touch-tone keypad may be required. Work is ongoing to resolve remaining voice recognition issues.
The use of the easily remembered three-digit 511 phone number to provide travel information was approved in July 2000 by the Federal Communications Commission. Since then, the 511 concept has grown rapidly; with Wyoming's entry, 29 systems in 24 states are now operational. The goal is to have 511 implemented nationwide by 2010.