PORTLAND – In a couple of months, drivers will be able to check out the traffic before they get behind the wheel, at least for a short stretch of I-295.

Maine Department of Transportation crews are preparing brackets and wiring for a couple of traffic cams that will be installed on the highway around the Forest Avenue exits and will go into operation when bridge and overpass repair and maintenance work gets underway, which is expected to be about mid-April.

Work crews will be returning this spring for more of the work on the long-running I-295 project. This year, the focus will be deck work for about a dozen bridges and overpasses through Portland on the northbound side.

The southbound side was done last year and work is expected to wrap up with paving next year.

“Get used to the orange cones, because here they come again,” said Ted Talbot, the spokesman for MDOT.

The traffic cams will be installed soon after the prep work is done, Talbot said, but won’t be turned on until a couple of weeks before the work begins. The cameras will come down after work wraps for the season, probably in early fall.

The live stream from the cameras, which will be available on MDOT’s website (http://www.maine.gov/mdot/i295portland/) will have two main audiences, Talbot said.

The first will be work crews, which will be able to monitor traffic and determine when equipment can be moved around. They will also watch out for emergency vehicles, to make sure they clear as much equipment as possible if police and fire vehicles or ambulances need to get through.

The second audience, he said, will be drivers, who can determine whether traffic is flowing well or if they should start thinking about alternate routes.

Talbot said most of the work will be done between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to minimize the disruption, but weather and the need to keep up with work schedules can lead to changes in the hours.

Traffic cams are a relative rarity in Maine.

Talbot said MDOT’s radio room has feeds from traffic cams from spots on the interstates to alert its own crews and emergency officials if there’s a problem. Talbot said those feeds aren’t available to the public, but the 295 images will be readily available to help drivers assess possible tie-ups.

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