2005-12-01

Call ‘Icy Roads’ for Info, But Beware the Automaton

Call ‘Icy Roads’ for Info, But Beware the Automaton

State police This week reminded motorists to call the state’s "511 Travel Information" line for road condition reports, and NOT the local state police barracks.

Treacherous traveling conditions last week meant that police statewide were busy responding to accident reports. Having people calling the barracks for road reports can tie up lines at a crucial time, state police said.

The "Icy Roads" hotline, formerly maintained by state police, has now been merged into the Agency of Transportation’s travel information telephone service and website.

Unfortunately, this automated service is still being developed, and it’s not the easiest thing to use.

To reach the phone system, call 511 if in state, or 1-800-ICY-ROAD (429-7623) if out-of-state.

A stilted, automated voice welcomes callers and invites them to say "Goodbye," before hanging up: Doing so will give the caller a chance to give AOT some feedback on the system.

The voice then quickly lists the information options available on the 511 line, including: "road weather," "tourism," "ferries, "statewide summary," and "regional summary." Callers must state, very clearly, the option they would like to hear about.

"Road Weather" is the thing to say, but then be prepared to state the name of a town. And then, be prepared for some automated grilling: "You said ‘Randolph.’ Is that right? Say, ‘Yes or No,’" and so on.

Then the voice—which sounds like bits of spoken words from three or four different people, mostly male, pasted together —will detail road conditions in an 80-mile radius around Randolph. "Rain … in … Orange … County… County! Fog … in … Windsor … County … County!"

Would-be travelers with computers may prefer to go online at 511vt.com, which also has regularly updated travel reports, in map form, with written descriptions.

By Sandy Cooch

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