SUFFOLK, Va. — It's the end of an era for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The Hampton Roads Highway Advisory Radio (HAR), broadcast on 1680 AM, was discontinued in Hampton Roads at 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6.
The radio advisory broadcast was part of the Commonwealth’s traffic management system. On the 24-hour, year-round radio transmission, motorists heard information about traffic, travel conditions and construction.
Hampton Roads was the last holdout for the HAR; it had already been discontinued throughout the rest of the state.
The reason is that VDOT implemented a common statewide “Advanced Traffic Management System” (ATMS) in recent years and this statewide network doesn’t support the HAR.
Four out of five Regional Transportation Operations Centers already use the ATMS Hampton Roads VDOT is currently operating on an independent system, making Hampton Roads VDOT the last to enter this statewide network.
The network is a cloud-based system meant to streamline its operations. It increases the transportation control center’s ability for computer systems or software to exchange information.
VDOT spokeswoman Holly Christopher said, “This new system will allow our operators to enter it in one time, so it will help get information out faster and more accurately.”
This means that if something happens in any one of the Transportation Operation Centers, another center will be able to provide continuity of operations.
VDOT began using the HAR system by 1990 and possibly earlier. Radio broadcasts were sent out through transmitters in Norfolk and in Hampton, strategically located along interstate highways or near major construction projects.
Now VDOT employees suggest people should find up-to-the-minute traffic information on the 511 app, by calling 511 or visiting 511virginia.org.
When asked about driver safety using the 511 system Christopher said, “We’re really hoping that people are not doing that. And that’s why we are doing a bigger push on getting that information out about the direct message boards into reinforcing that message about getting out and doing before you got out on the road.”
Joe Bass is an avid user of the radio. He said, “Pretty much every time I get out of the house to go any distance, I turn on that station.”
He said he won’t use his cell phone while driving but doesn’t like the radio station being gone.
“Kind of surprised that there hasn’t been some uproar over this,” said Bass.