Consider potential system enhancements to meet heavy demand.
Utah DOT’s experience managing the development and deployment of arterial and freeway management systems
Made Public Date


Salt Lake City
United States

Intelligent Transportation Systems at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games: Traffic Management and Traveler Information Case Study


The Utah Department of Transportation contracted for several reports on the development, deployment, and operation of ITS in the Salt Lake City Region. CommuterLink is a network of traffic sensors, closed-circuit television, variable message signs, highway advisory radio, freeway ramp meters, internet information site, and other traffic-management and traveler information services, all of which are integrated into a Traffic Operations Center. CommuterLink’s purpose was to provide advanced transportation management and traveler information capabilities in the Salt Lake City area. The 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City added new functional requirements and a firm deadline for deployment.

This case study was performed to examine UDOT’s procurement and deployment efforts related to ITS in the region. UDOT followed a unique approach to contracting this deployment. The case study provides an overview of the successes and lessons learned related to configuration management, software selection, the system environment, staff and management roles in the development process, and meeting heavy system demand. This report presents findings from the ITS "Case Study" which primarily focused on deployment efforts before the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. A companion document, the Olympics “Event Study,” assesses how the CommuterLink system was used during the Olympic Games.

Lessons Learned

ITS system enhancements can help agencies meet potential heavy transportation demand. Overall, the Salt Lake City system performed well given the extreme demands of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is highly unlikely that the CommuterLink System will ever be required to function to the high level of usage as occurred during the Olympics. This extensive usage did highlight potential enhancements to the system as well as some technical issues with the current configuration:

Variable Message Sign User Interface enhancements – the current design of the VMS control allows for the modification/command of a single VMS at a time. With over 60 permanent signs, it would have been much easier to simply command a change in content that could then be broadcast to multiple signs at once. Also, the VMS control did not appear to allow for Time-Of-Day scheduling of messages or a default messaging feature.

Highway Advisory Radio – communications to the HAR utilized cellular telephone systems to upload new messages. Given the cellular phone traffic in the area during the Olympic Games, there were times when connection with the HAR unit could not be made to update the messages. In addition, the HAR units were battery powered with a solar recharge capability. These HAR units were transmitting for extended periods of time during the games. At times, power to the HAR was lost due to consumption exceeding the available charging capacity of the solar panels.

While some of these issues were largely unique to the heavy demands of the Olympic Games, similar issues could occur in other urbanized areas where extensive incident management and/or traveler information services are in place. Similar extreme demands could also occur in the instance of a catastrophic event.