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GDOT making money from 511 signs
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GDOT 511 information

For more information about the Georgia 511 system visit www.511ga.org.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has found a way to help its budget and motorists simultaneously.

The department has begun selling sponsorship slots on signs advertising its Georgia 511 system.

The signs — which are being placed along highways, state routes and limited access roads — remind motorists to call 511 for “real-time” travel information and also provide a space for area businesses to advertise. The call is free from land-lines but regular wireless charges and fees may apply.

“One of the goals of the sponsorship program is to generate enough money to pay for the 511 system. Depending on the number of calls that we receive, it costs between $40,000 to $50,000 to operate 511 each month,” said Monica Luck, a communications specialist working with GDOT on this project.

“Revenue generation from this program has a lot of potential. It comes at a time when the revenue the state is getting to fund programs and projects is shrinking.”

So far, there are around 174 signs up around the state, including along Queen City Parkway in Gainesville and Interstate 985.

“Most of the sponsors for the initial roll-out have been generated in the Metro Atlanta area, but now we’ve gotten interest from sponsors all over the state,” Luck said.

“We anticipate that by mid-2011 we’ll have around 1,000 signs up statewide.”

Since starting in 2007, 511 has gotten around 4 million calls — nearly 1 million in 2010 alone — Luck said.

“We noticed a lot of call spikes on the weekends in March and April with people returning from spring break and trips to Florida,” Luck said.

“Florida has a fairly large 511 system and callers can transfer from their system to ours and vice versa.”

Callers can also transfer between Tennessee and North Carolina systems. The transition is automatic when 511 is called near one of the state’s borders.

By dialing 511 callers can get information about construction, lane closures and accidents — among other things.

Georgia 511 was launched with seed money from the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Luck says. Now it is funded by a combination of federal and state funds.

“The sponsorship program has been a savings to taxpayers because now their tax dollars aren’t paying for (511). We’ve worked very hard developing this program and we’re looking at a lot of other possible opportunities,” Luck said.

“It may be possible to generate a similar program to fund other projects to help reduce the burden on taxpayers — we feel like we’re just getting started.”

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