Wisconsin DOT provides winter road condition reports for state roadways

Over 14,000 miles of state roadways are covered by the DOT’s 511WI winter road condition reports, which update twice per hour.
Over 14,000 miles of state roadways are covered by the DOT’s 511WI winter road condition...
Over 14,000 miles of state roadways are covered by the DOT’s 511WI winter road condition reports, which update twice per hour.(David Goldman | AP Photo/David Goldman)
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 8:44 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is providing winter road condition reports for over 14,000 miles of state roadways.

With the season’s first accumulating snowfall for most of Wisconsin, including winter weather advisories on Monday in western Wisconsin, the DOT is reminding people who plan on traveling in the state that they can find road condition reports at 511wi.gov.

“Weather in Wisconsin means driving conditions can change in an instant,” Craig Thompson, DOT Secretary, said. “Our free, easy-to-use 511 Wisconsin system can provide the clearest and most accurate travel information to prepare for the road ahead.”

An upgrade to the state’s 511WI system was implemented in January of 2022, expanding the DOT’s winter road condition reporting from 3,700 miles of roadways to over 14,000 miles. The update also provides more frequent updates, with reports generated twice each hour from the Maintenance Decision Support System used by the DOT and county highway departments to look at conditions on roadways in Wisconsin. The previous system, which debuted in 2013, managed road conditions manually with field reports a few times each day. Data sources for the new system, which began on Jan. 31, includes atmospheric and road weather sensors along roadways and at airports, snowplows equipped with Geographic Information Systems and the National Weather Service.

The reports at 511wi.gov are updated 24 hours a day. In addition, travelers can view cameras that display both photo and video of the roadways across Wisconsin to help better plan for travel. Thompson said that along with all of the tools the Wisconsin DOT is providing, motorists are encouraged to prepare their vehicles for winter driving and to prepare themselves by reviewing safety tips for safe winter commutes. The DOT encourages drivers to take it slow in winter weather conditions, since most crashes and slide-offs in winter are caused by driving too fast for conditions. Here are some other winter driving tips:

  • Before heading out, learn the latest about highway conditions and incidents by visiting 511wi.gov. Let others know about your planned route and expected arrival time. Fully charge your cell phone.
  • Clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s windows, front and rear lights, roof and hood. Ensure everyone is buckled up.
  • Take it slow. Allow extra travel time and following distance. Most winter crashes and slide-offs are caused by drivers going too fast for the existing conditions. Remember, posted speed limits apply to ideal travel conditions.
  • Turn on your vehicle’s low-beam headlights. This helps you see what’s ahead, and helps other drivers see you. State law requires drivers to turn on their vehicle’s low-beam headlights any time that weather or other conditions make it difficult to see objects 500 feet ahead.
  • Sudden braking or steering can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Use brakes early and carefully. With anti-lock-brakes (ABS), use firm, steady pressure and gently steer. Never use cruise control in wintry weather.
  • Don’t be overconfident in your four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle. All vehicles require additional time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.
  • Remember that bridge decks/overpasses can be especially slippery, even when adjacent pavements are in good travel condition.
  • Watch for snowplows. Stay at least 200 feet behind a working plow and use extra caution if you decide to pass. Plows often create a cloud of snow that can obscure visibility, and road conditions ahead of the plow are likely worse.
  • Keep a safe distance behind large trucks. Along with obscuring your view of the road ahead, pieces of snow or ice can blow off the top of commercial trucks as they travel down the highway.
  • Winter storm advisories/warnings are routinely posted on Dynamic Message Signs along major highway corridors. Heed this information and drive accordingly. Winter storm events often have moderate to significant travel impacts.
  • Be mindful of your location using crossroads, mileposts or key landmarks. If you do become stranded, you’ll be better prepared to describe your location for law enforcement or tow truck operators.

To use the 511 travel information system in Wisconsin, you can go to 511wi.gov or use the 511 Wisconsin app. When using the app or website, make sure “winter road conditions” is checked and check the colors of the roadways in your area according to the map legend to see what the road conditions are in your area and along your drive. You can also access traffic cameras from the app or website by clicking on the camera icons on the map. These can also be enabled from the map legend. To play the video feed on any traffic camera, press the play button.