Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions - 511

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•   Can I get information about a specific road?

Yes. You may access weather-related road conditions for all Interstate, US and state roads.

•   How can I access North Dakota's 511 information?

Information from North Dakota's 511 system is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via:
wireless phone by dialing 511 or 888-696-3511 (within ND);
wireline phone by dialing 511 or 888-696-3511 (within ND);
pay phone by dialing 511 or 888-696-3511 (within ND); or
any phone dialing 888-696-3511 nationwide.

•   How did 511 get started?

On March 8, 1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate a nationwide three-digit telephone number for traveler information. This petition was formally supported by 17 state DOTs, 32 transit operators, and 23 metropolitan planning organizations and local agencies. On July 21, 2000, the FCC designated "511" as the single travel information telephone number to be made available to states and local jurisdictions across the country.

•   How is 511 different from radio and TV news?

511 is another information source for travelers that compliments radio and television broadcasts. It is coded to the specific routes the caller is interested in; that kind of user-specific information is not given over broadcast media.

•   How much does a call to 511 cost users?

511 is a public service of the telecommunications industry and state of North Dakota. There is no charge to North Dakota wireline users. Wireless users will pay normal airtime and roaming charges, according to their wireless service contracts. Pay phone users should expect a free call in most areas.
Some 511 services offered in other states may charge the caller for premium information such as tourist information, special events, parking locations and lot status, trip routing and planning, etc. The caller will be notified of any charges.

•   How often is the 511 information updated?

There are two main pieces of information available on the 511 system; weather information and road condition information. The weather information is updated every 3 hours year round. The road condition information in the winter time is updated at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Traveler information is also updated at 5 p.m. for commuter routes in the Bismarck, Grand Forks and Fargo areas. During a winter storm, the road conditions can be updated more often as conditions change. After the 9 p.m. road report, the road conditions are not updated on the 511 system until the next morning, so travelers should be aware of changing conditions. Construction and truck load restriction information is updated weekly.

•   How often is the information updated?

The 511 system provides road condition and weather information. During the winter months (November through mid-April) the road conditions on the Travel Information Map are updated from 5 AM until 10 PM daily and weather information is updated as needed. During the summer months (mid-April through October) the Travel Information Maps are updated once daily or as conditions warrant.

•   How soon will 511 be available nationwide?

The FCC ruling leaves nearly all implementation issues and schedules to state and local agencies and telecommunications carriers. There are no federal requirements and there is no mandate for 511 implementation. While several states, highway corridors and cities already have 511 service, many states are still planning their 511 deployments. By 2005, a nationwide "footprint" is expected. Click here to view a map showing the status of 511 nationwide.

•   What area does North Dakota’s 511 service cover?

511 is offered statewide in North Dakota, and covers the interstate, U.S. routes and state highways. It does not include county roads or city streets. Eventually, this service may be expanded to other roadways.

•   What does it mean when there is No Travel Advised; does it mean the road is closed?

When the department issues a No Travel Advised statement, it means road conditions are to the point where it is unsafe for travel. Some of the conditions may include low visibility, icy roads, blizzard conditions, etc. The roads are not closed, but law enforcement and DOT officials are stating the road conditions have deteriorated to a point that they are unsafe for travel. If a road is closed, the 511 road reporting system will report the road closed. However, a No Travel Advised statement may be a precursor to a road closure if conditions don't improve.

•   What happened to the NDDOT's 800 and local road condition phone numbers?

511 is an abbreviated, easier-to-remember version of the 800 number and the local phone numbers. If 511 service is not available through your wireline or wireless carrier, you may still call 866-696-3511. This number can also be used when calling from out of state.

•   What if I have trouble dialing 511 from my work phone?

Many businesses have their own telephone systems. These systems switch calls between internal users and external telephone lines. These systems are called Private Branch Exchanges (PBX). Most PBX systems require the user to dial a single digit access code (typically “8” or “9”) to reach an outside line. For callers to dial 511 directly, a switch must be made in the company's phone system.

Contact your supervisor or employer to find out if this switch has been made. Until the switch is made, you may call 511 after first dialing the required single digit access code.

•   What is 511's relationship to 911?

911 is used to report emergencies, the need for police or medical attention. 511 is a traveler information number.

•   What is 511?

511 is America's new, easy-to-remember travel information telephone number. Regardless of the traveler's location, 511 gives travelers choices - choice of time and choice of route – to provide a safe and efficient transportation system. 511 will replace and consolidate a proliferation of travel information telephone numbers around the country, estimated at more than 300 in 1999.

•   What is a Mile Point?

All roads on the state highway system have mile points located off the shoulder of the roadway. They are marked with a post and number plaques that have a green background with white numbers. The posts are located approximately one mile apart, with numbers increasing starting at zero in the west and south borders of ND. All Interstate exits are numbered based on the mile point system. For example, Interstate 94 Exit 157, is located within mile 157. One of the enhancements being considered for the 511 system is using highway junctions and landmarks, instead of mile points.

•   What is the role of the wireless phone in making calls to 511?

The North Dakota DOT's number-one priority is safety. Our programs and efforts are directed toward improving safety and saving lives. The preference is that motorists call 511 from home, work or other point of origin, prior to their departure. When used en-route, motorists are urged to place their calls from a nearby rest area, fueling station or other appropriate stopping point along the way. It is illegal to park your vehicle on the shoulder of an Interstate highway in a non-emergency situation.

•   What should I do if I have trouble using 511 from my wireline or wireless phone?

Contact your phone carrier directly for assistance. All telecommunications companies serving North Dakota can offer 511 to their subscribers/customers.

•   What type of information is available?

Winter weather-related road condition information will be available from October through May. Information is added only when conditions change. If North Dakota roadways are not being impacted by the winter weather, you will most likely hear a message that roads are in “GOOD DRIVNG CONDITION.”

For updates on statewide weather conditions, as collected from the NDDOT's Road Weather Information System, visit http://www.dot.nd.gov/travel/travel.htm

In the spring, load restriction information is made available. This gives commercial vehicle operators information regarding the legal load limits for the highway system.

Also in the spring, as soon as weather permits, information regarding state road construction and maintenance projects will be posted. Information will be updated as new work is started or completed or travel conditions change.

511, both in North Dakota and nationally, is an evolving travel information service. As additional resources become available, North Dakota's system may be expanded to include information regarding tourism and community events, traffic incidents, emergency services, etc.

Traveler information in adjacent states of Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota is also available from ND 511.

•   When did North Dakota become involved?

North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) has provided traveler information to travelers for years. Over the years, the department has made improvements in the way it provides the information, including providing information on the Internet. In November 1996, in partnership with the South Dakota Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and the University of North Dakota Regional Weather Information Center, the #SAFE (#7233) cellular traveler information system was launched. #SAFE was another option for travelers to get current in-route traveler information, in addition to the eight local telephone numbers and the statewide toll free number. #SAFE was very successful and was used as model for the nationwide 511 system.

•   Where does the information originate?

A computer-based system is working behind the scene processing the information that is entered by NDDOT or other sources. After that information is entered, it is routed to the 511 phone system where it is automatically converted from text messages to audio messages.

Currently, winter road condition information is entered by NDDOT based on observations made by their equipment operators as they travel throughout the state. Obviously, operators are not able to cover all designated routes at the same time, however, they continue to enter information as conditions change and they travel different roadways.

•   Why can’t I get information for US 281 between Carrington and Jamestown?

Actually you can, but you have to make sure you select US 52. ND 511 follows the national numbering system for highways, which has a specific numbering system for highways carrying more than one route. Highways are prioritized based on the highway system they carry in the following order: Interstate system, US system and state system and then by highway number, with the lowest number having priority.

This is the case for the highway between Carrington and Jamestown, which carries both US 52 and US 281. The numbering system uses the lowest numbered highway as the priority highway, so the highway between Carrington and Jamestown is given the designation of US 52. It is shown on state highway maps the same way. There are many other highways in the state that also meet these criteria; for example US 2 and US 85 near Williston is designated US 2; the highway between Bismarck and Sterling carries I-94 and US 83, but is designated I-94, the highway between Dunseith and Rocklake carries US 281 and ND 5, but is designated US 281.

•   Why doesn’t the 511 system understand what I’m saying (voice recognition)?

The ND 511 system gives you two options to get information. At the beginning of the call you are given the chance to use the voice recognition system by pressing the * key on your phone. If you elect not to push the * key, you will need to input your requests using the keypad of the phone. The voice recognition system is a good system, but sometimes can’t understand what a caller is saying if there is background noise or the caller does not speak clearly.