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Highway traffic radio still helping motorists

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In an age where the AM band is mostly home to angry talk show hosts and all news stations, low power traveler's assistance radio is still alive and well, 35 years after it began.

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The Connecticut Department of Transportation operates 14 transmitters that provide highway and traveler's information around the clock. The info can be especially useful during winter storms, road construction, and following major accidents.

The stations are located along major highways - eight of them along the Connecticut Turnpike - as part of the "Highway Advisory Radio System," says Robert Kennedy, senior transportation engineer with the Connecticut DOT.

They operate in the upper end of the AM band, with an output power of 10 watts and a range of three to five miles.

Reports of traffic backups, breakdowns and lane closures are smiliar to what's posted on the DOT website, and sometimes on digital overhead warning signs, Kennedy said.

Transmitters along I-95 and I-84 operate on 1670 KHz, while those on I-91 and Route 15 are on 1610 KHz, he said.

Connecticut DOT has provided Examiner.com with a list of highway radio stations, their locations and frequencies:

  • I-95 Exit 9 (Stamford) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 22 (Fairfield) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 30 (Stratford) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 43 (West Haven) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 56 (Branford) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 64 (Madison) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 67 (Old Saybrook) 1670 KHz
  • I-95 Exit 82 (Waterford) 1670 KHz
  • Merritt Parkway Exit 51 (Trumbull) 1610 KHz
  • I-91 Exit 23 (Rocky Hill) 1610 KHz
  • I-91 Exit 10 (North Haven) 1610 KHz
  • I-84 Exit 23 (Waterbury) 1610 KHz
  • I-84 Exit 31 (Southington) 1610 KHz

The information is updated when the DOT knows of a highway traffic incident within range of a transmitter, or motorists will be driving through a broadcast area near the incident, Kennedy said.

Information Station Specialists, a Michigan company that provides traffic radio stations and advisory signs to federal and state agencies including Connecticut, says business is brisk in this era of disaster relief planning.

Spokeswoman Linda Fallone says ISS also sells fixed and portable transmitters for use in diasaster areas, to direct motorists to evacuation routes, shelter and emergency care. ISS also provides large, remotely controlled digital signs, telling people where to tune for information in their areas.

ISS's complete product line and services can be seen on the company website, theradiosource.com.

Highway advisory and other low power AM stations are licenced by the FCC, and must follow strict output power and antenna requirements. Antennas must be vertical monopoles, and no higher than 49 feet off the ground.

Complete regulations concerning Traveler's Information Stations can be found at the FCC Part 90 website.

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