511 Virginia is a statewide web and phone service that disseminates, amongst other things, traffic information on 96 roads throughout the state of Virginia. The service, which is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), has been in operation statewide since February 2005. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has been involved with the development and operation of the service since its inception and currently serves as a data clearinghouse for 511. VTTI collects traffic and travel information from across the state, cleans the data in the VTTI operations center, and then sends the data to VDOT contractors who are in charge of disseminating it via phone and web to the traveling public.

As part of the 511 data clearinghouse, VTTI began operating an email alert system that distributes 511 alerts to the VDOT and its 511 contractors. The 511 alert service is one small piece of the overall 511 Virginia program. The purpose of this ITS Implementation Center project was to enhance the current email alert system in certain key respects so that it could be offered as a traveler information product to the traveling public.

The original “in-house” system relied on manual assignment of email address and road preferences (which road incidents would be reported, e.g. I-66, I-81), and assumed a computer-based email client was being used to receive the alerts. The new public system enhanced the original service in several ways. These enhancements included an automated online subscription system, the ability to customize which sections of a particular road were of interest, and the ability to receive alerts formatted for the device that was receiving them.