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Two months ago, Caltrans began erecting 20-foot-tall aluminum poles on the 5 freeway between Carmel Valley and Oceanside. In the past few weeks, each pole (located at most every on- or off-ramp) began to be outfitted with vehicle-detection devices. The poles are being equipped with solar power panels, wireless component boxes, and radar plates, which will transmit instant information to Caltrans.

Caltrans’ San Diego district spokesperson Edward Cartagena says that the two-million-dollar program only counts vehicles, distinguishes between cars and big trucks, and calculates average speeds. It will help Caltrans better manage traffic flows, regulate on ramp meters, and plan for future highway improvements.

“We do not have the technology to report to the Highway Patrol if we detect someone doing 90 miles per hour,” says Cartagena.

Privacy rights groups may speculate that the wireless infrastructure now in place is for the purpose of electronically tracking every vehicle and taxing accordingly. Caltrans says there is no such motive.

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