Technology aims to encourage Michigan tourism

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LANSING — A new website is working to boost the tourism industry by helping people plan their travel.

MiDrive (www.midrive.org) is a traffic website with an interactive map showing warnings for travelers, said Barbara Hicks, a public affairs representative at the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The idea is to put all the information of travel on the website, and tourists can use it to plan their routes,” Hicks said.

The interactive map includes construction barrels that users can click on for information about that location, such as when the construction will end, said Hicks. “You can search the construction site by counties, as well, which makes it very easy for tourists to plan where they want to travel.”

Other elements of the site include weather updates by ZIP codes, traffic incidents and traffic cameras.

“The cameras are called road weather information system cameras in Detroit, Grand Rapids and parts of the Upper Peninsula,” Hicks said.

The cameras take videos of a particular section of road so drivers can click on where they want to go and watch a video of what is happening there. “There are currently 12 cameras in the Upper Peninsula,” Hicks said. “MDOT plans to expand the website within the next year.”

According to Hicks, the website is going cellular and a new mobile version was introduced in May. “Any smart phone can get it, and it will have the majority of the features from the main site.”

There are now nine traffic websites among the states, and Michigan will have the 10th.

Dave Lorenz, managing director at Travel Michigan, worked with MDOT to create the interactive website. Travel Michigan is the state’s official tourism promotion agency.

“The website is tied in with the new state map. We’re trying to make easier access to travel and activities by using technology,” Lorenz said.

“It’s all about ease of travel. We want tourists to get to their place comfortably,” Norton said. “There are more construction projects in the summer, which is when the highest number of tourists travel in the state, so this website will really help the traveler then.”

Another MDOT project is called mobility analysis, and it also encourages safer and more efficient traveling, according to Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT.

“We are working with new projects and ideas to boost the tourism industry and, in turn, help the state’s economy. One way we’re doing this is mobility analysis,” Steudle said. “The mobility analysis helps keeps roads open while construction is underway. We are enabling people to move around by watching the travel patterns in different parts of the state.”

According to Steudle, the northern part of the state works on heavy construction projects Monday through Thursday because more people travel on the weekends.

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