Frequently asked questions

What is the 511 phone system?

511 is an easy-to-remember national traveler information telephone number. 511 provides real-time updates about weather-related road conditions, construction, commercial vehicle restrictions, road closures and other events that impact traffic via the phone, internet, or mobile application.

How did 511 get started?

On March 8, 1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) 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.

When did Iowa become involved?

Eight states, from Alaska to Maine, pooled resources and expertise to develop the 511 voice-activated phone service for travelers. Led by the Iowa DOT, the multi-state consortium received $700,000 from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for system design and software development. Each state also provided a 20 percent matching fund, boosting total funds to nearly $900,000. In addition to Iowa, the participating states in the consortium were Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and Vermont.

What area does Iowa's 511 service cover?

511 is offered statewide in Iowa and covers interstates, U.S. routes and state highways. It does not include county roads or city streets. 511 for participating Iowa counties can be found on the Iowa County Roads website.

How can I access Iowa's 511 information?

Information from Iowa's 511 system is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through 511ia.org, the mobile app, or by dialing 511 within Iowa, or any phone by dialing 800-288-1047. Drivers are encouraged to put safety first by asking a passenger to call 511 or use 511ia.org before departure.

What type of information is available?

Winter road condition information is available from October 15 through April 15. Road condition information is reported by Iowa DOT maintenance staff and is updated every two hours or as conditions change – whichever is sooner. Their plow locations and plow camera images are also available on the website and mobile app.

In addition to winter road conditions, information regarding construction projects, maintenance activities, crashes, truck restrictions and detours are posted. Each traffic event is updated as something changes specific to that event.

How often is the information updated?

Updates are near real-time and are updated as conditions change.

Where does the information originate?

The information provided on the 511 system, except for winter road conditions, is entered by the Iowa DOT's 24/7 statewide Traffic Management Center in Ankeny, Iowa.

Winter road conditions are entered by Iowa DOT maintenance staff. Road conditions are updated every 2 hours or as close to when conditions change.

When should you use 511 versus 911?

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


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