Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones: A Case Study - Work Zone Traffic and Incident Management System - Keeping Traffic Moving During Reconstruction of the Big I, a Major Interstate-Interstate Interchange in Albuquerque
The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) rebuilt the Big I interchange in Albuquerque to make it safer and more efficient and provide better access. The original Big I was severely over-capacity. NMSHTD employed an ITS-based mobile traffic monitoring/management system to help move vehicles through the extensive construction area. ITS components were deployed prior to construction with plans to later incorporate portions of the system into a permanent freeway management system.
NMSHTD used ITS for several reasons:
- Changes in traffic patterns, closures and alternate routes required that travelers be provided with high-quality real-time information.
- The high volume of traffic moving through the interchange created great potential for congestion.
Three main project goals included:
- Provide traffic management capabilities and traveler information on traffic routing, detours, and incidents.
- Minimize capacity restrictions due to incidents.
- Enhance traveler safety.
The project included cameras and sensors to monitor traffic conditions and detect incidents, electronic signs, highway advisory radio, a website, and other media to transmit traveler information. Incident detection was a major component. Lessons learned related to the importance of a reliable communication system, scheduling and planning, public awareness, interagency coordination, and consideration of future maintenance requirements.
Involving other stakeholder agencies early in the process of developing and implementing an ITS work zone system will greatly aid in the success of the system’s deployment. During the deployment of ITS technology at the Big I interchange in Albuquerque, the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) coordinated extensively with a variety of interested and invested parties.
- Involve local police in the use of ITS. For the Big I interchange ITS deployment NMSHTD placed a police substation in the general contractor's staging yard, allowing for quick access and response to the construction area. A police base station radio deployed at the Traffic Management Center (TMC) allowed for direct communication between the police and NMSHTD staff and a dispatcher was co-located in the TMC to dispatch the officers as needed. An emergency medical technician (EMT) unit and a tow truck were also located in the same compound as the police substation.
- Develop response measures for various types of incidents that may arise. NMSHTD used a proactive traffic incident management approach. NMSHTD staff developed a Crisis Communication Plan that delineated coordination procedures to be followed, for various types of incidents, by key personnel, the public, and other agencies as needed.
- Coordinate with agencies responsible for incident management. For the Big I interchange NMSHTD coordinated extensively with the incident management community and obtained Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) assistance to help patrol the work zone area.
Based on their experiences with the Big I ITS deployment, NMSHTD realized that state departments of transportation need to "sell" ITS to the incident management community and work with them to determine how to use the system to coordinate with incident response.
Involving other invested stakeholder agencies in the implementation of ITS in work zones is crucial for effective operations, especially as it pertains to incident management. NMSHTD implemented a successful approach by coordinating with local police and FHWA, and by developing a crisis communication plan to be followed in the event of an incident. Overall, early planning and coordination with stakeholders is the most effective implementation strategy to follow.