Uncle Sam puts $80m in state traffic plans

Uncle Sam puts $80m in state traffic plans

U.S. DOT singles out seven intelligent transportation systems projects for evaluation

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff

What do a Northwestern ferry boat, a Mid-Atlantic bridge and a Silicon Valley freeway have in common?

They're all elements of seven state and local intelligent transportation system (ITS) projects that recently fell under the federal spotlight.

The U.S. Transportation Department will begin assessing the projects late this year and use the results to help communities best deploy ITS. The department chose the seven projects from 67 that shared $80 million in federal fiscal 2000 funding from the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21.

'These are the seven that we can learn the most from and that have the most broadly applicable uses around the country,' U.S. DOT transportation specialist Susan Slye said.


Silicon Valley ITS project manager Yves Zsutty of the San Jose Department of Streets and Traffic oversees a fiber WAN that links 10 California governments.


Advanced Traveler Information Services for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. As part of their SunGuide ITS program, several South Florida agencies and the state DOT are developing a traveler information system that they expect to generate revenue for the group and for system contractor SmartRoute Systems Inc. of Boston.

The agencies bring to the table their existing IT infrastructure and $4 million to provide three years of seed money. SmartRoute will provide continuous traveler information over the system, which it will build and maintain for at least five years, said Arvind Kumbhojkar, program manager and ITS administrator for the affected Florida DOT district.

The group will share traveler information via phone, pager, highway advisory radio, the Internet and possibly a TV traffic channel.

SmartRoute will generate revenue by selling advertising on the system and by selling data to media outlets. It will share revenue on a graduated scale with the partners, which will reinvest the money in the system.

The team is developing the contract now and expects to provide services by early next year.

Smart Bridges. The Delaware River Port Authority, which oversees four bridges linking southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, is including 16 ITS projects under the Smart Bridges umbrella.

One component, the E-ZPass radio frequency toll collection system, provides automatic toll collection, upgraded cash toll collection, toll video surveillance and video enforcement of toll cheats, spokeswoman My Linh Nguyen said. The authority is also conducting a pilot of video traffic surveillance.

Another project in the development stage is a centralized operations center that will monitor bridge activity and provide centralized dispatch for local police departments and transportation agencies.

Ferry Terminal Traveler Information Improvements. The Washington State DOT will use ITS to combat the traffic congestion that snarls driveways and side streets near ferry queues, and also quell the ferry rage aimed at drivers who cut in line or take shortcuts through neighborhoods.

The department plans to use variable message signs, highway advisory radio, video surveillance and the Internet to inform drivers about road conditions around the state's 19 ferry terminals.

Informed travelers might choose to drive around on land, delay a trip or cancel a trip, assistant area traffic engineer Dawn McIntosh said.

The department completed a study at one terminal and is now selecting pilot terminals for ITS, which it considers a low-cost interim solution until larger capital improvements can be made, McIntosh said.

I-880/SR 17 Smart Corridor Improvements. The San Jose, Calif., Streets and Traffic Department is leading a 10-government team to share data, video surveillance and traffic light control through a 15-mile corridor in Silicon Valley. The group is building a network that will exchange data without requiring any of the partners to alter their existing traffic management systems (see story, below).

Riverside County, Calif., Transit ITS Demonstration Project. The county's two bus transit providers, Sunline Transit and the Riverside Transit Agency, are deploying automatic vehicle location technology to jointly track their fixed-route and paratransit bus fleets.

The system will help the team optimize routes and better manage fleets, said Jay Peterson, RTA's information technologies director.

Armed with fixed-route bus location information, a paratransit driver will be able to arrive at a fixed-route bus stop, meet a bus already traveling to a disabled rider's destination and transfer the rider instead of taking the rider to his or her destination directly.

'That frees us up to be able to pick up more people,' Peterson said.

The team is planning to work with other regional transportation groups such as commuter railroads.


Senior engineering technician Ruby Justo, foreground, and principal engineering technician Mayuko Tzanavaras of the Streets and Traffic Department monitor a WAN that helps manage
traffic along Interstate 880 in Silicon Valley.


Transcom System for Managing Incidents and Traffic (TRANSMIT). Transcom, a consortium of New York City tristate-region agencies, has found a second application for an established technology.

TRANSMIT already taps the local E-ZPass toll collection system to gather aggregated travel data from cars such as speed and travel times, Transcom technology development manager Tom Batz said.

The federal Transportation Department will evaluate a new TRANSMIT application that will track bus locations using the same technology.

Transcom has begun installing antennas on overpasses and signs along a 6-mile portion of road between Secaucus, N.J., and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Terminal staff will be able to monitor the locations of New Jersey Transit buses travelling the corridor.

SR 395 Traveler Information Project. State Route 395 includes a rural, 50-mile mountain pass along the 130-mile stretch of road linking Spokane, Wash., and the Canadian border. The Washington DOT is evaluating systems to provide weather advisory and road condition information to motorists on either side of the pass.

The department is considering a remote camera system, highway advisory radio and variable message signs to help travelers decide whether they should travel over the pass, find an alternate route or wait for poor conditions to improve.

It is also planning to build weather stations that will link to a network of other weather stations across the state and provide information over the Internet, DOT public information officer Al Gilson said.

The U.S. DOT will spend $1.5 million to evaluate the seven projects, which fall under TEA-21's ITS Integration Program and use ITS to support metropolitan, rural, statewide, multistate or multicity transportation operations. It plans to complete the evaluations by late 2002.

Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio, will perform the evaluations. Some evaluations will measure before and after conditions, while others will consider participant interviews about lessons learned, U.S. DOT's Slye said.

TEA-21 authorized $198 billion in surface transportation investment, $1.3 billion of which
is earmarked for advanced ITS technologies.

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