New 511 system helps N.B. motorists

New Brunswick motorists now have instant access to the latest road conditions across the province by dialing 511 on their cellphones.

New Brunswick motorists now have instant access to the latest road conditions across the province by dialing 511 on their cellphones.

They simply dial the number, then select the highway route number they're interested in, said Transportation Minister Denis Landry, who announced the new service Friday in Hanwell.

"Sometimes the weather changes from one end to the other and if I'm in my car and have my cellphone, I would be able to call them and see exactly what's coming up there," he said.

The year-round bilingual service, which also provides information about traffic snarls, road construction delays and ferry service, can also be accessed over the internet.

It cost about $83,500 to implement, an amount that is being shared by the Department of Transportation and Transport Canada, said Landry.

New Brunswick is the fourth jurisdiction in Canada to offer the 511 service, after the Yukon, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Motorists will also be able to use the system to alert officials about road problems, or sudden weather changes they encounter, said Landry.

"This past spring in Campbellton, a taxi driver called us to let us know that a bridge had washed out. Things like that, that people see that we're not aware of. Somebody can get there before the Department of Transportation, can get there or the RCMP. This is where they'll be able to call. It's easy to remember. It's 511.

"If you have something to report, something that's not normal, to see a bridge that's collapsed or something like that, that we're not aware of, a tree that's across the street. You never know what can happen, or an accident…This will be one of the great systems."

Public Safety Minister John Foran said the new system will also help police forces across the province.

"It's going to give them an opportunity themselves probably to check roads out when they start out on their patrols and be able to be prepared for certain areas that may be worse than others and they may be getting calls to those areas," he said.

"So they'll be more aware of it when they start, you know. That's one advantage I see.

"The second is that we're sandwiched between the provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec, who already have this, you know. So it's going to fall in line with that. So I think it's a great initiative."

The 511 number was assigned in July 2006 by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.