Like many of the state’s roads, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s 511 traveler information website is under construction this summer.
The service available online at 511mn.org and through its companion mobile app is getting a new look and several features to provide better reports on everything from road work to crashes to weather-related hazards.
“MnDOT is always looking for ways to improve our 511mn traveler information sites to help drivers make informed travel decisions,” spokeswoman Anne Meyer said in an e-mail.
In recent years, MnDOT has added features to 511, including those that allow users to get live views from cameras mounted on snowplows and real-time reports from hundreds of weather stations across the state. More recently, MnDOT added the ability for users to read advisory messages displayed on overhead electronic road signs.
But the look of 511 has hardly changed since it debuted in 2002, Meyer said.
The agency is spending $958,000 to upgrade the display. Among the changes are new icons pointing to road work with detailed descriptions about possible travel impacts. Another enhancement notes the locations of weigh stations and rest areas and whether they are open or closed.
The new maps show the locations of roundabouts on state highways with information about the width and length of vehicles they can accommodate. Weather radar and links to travel information sites of neighboring states have also been added.
“We are trying to make it simpler to use,” Meyer said.
MnDOT has not widely publicized the redesigned site, which it turned on in March just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and traffic dropped considerably.
But for the past four months, motorists logging onto 511 have been able to see the new site by clicking a link in the upper left corner on the current site. The link brings up the new page and allows users to e-mail MnDOT with feedback.
Scores of people have done that, Meyer said. Some users have not liked the way incident information scrolls up from the bottom of the screen after they click on an icon, blocking out part of the map. Others have not liked the position of a menu on the side that allows them to customize the information they want to see, Meyer said.
“We know we want to make changes,” Meyer said.
Meyer said MnDOT hopes to officially roll out the new 511 in the fall and have it fully operational by winter, when the service is most used.
Motorists accessed 511 more than 6.2 million times between January and May, with numbers about equally split between the website and app. User traffic is heaviest in the winter months. In January, the app had 1.73 million visits compared with just over 176,700 visits in May, according to MnDOT.
It’s gold for Hennepin
Hennepin County has attained gold status on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of Bicycle Friendly Businesses. That is up one level from silver, the county’s previous designation. The award was announced last week.
Jordan Kocak, the county’s pedestrian and bicycle coordinator, said new classes for employees and the addition of secure parking facilities may have helped earn the award. Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington earned platinum status, the league’s highest award.
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