Recognize integration issues in Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) Projects, and follow the systems engineering approach to establish a project's foundation.
Experience from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
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United States

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) Phase III Project


Traffic congestion, weather conditions, incidents and other emergency conditions can significantly impact the mobility and safety of travelers. Through the collection, consolidation and communication of traveler information, an Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) enables the public to make better informed travel decisions and assists transportation agencies in their roadway operations and management.

In 1998, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) entered into an agreement which provided funds for the deployment of Phase III (of VIII Phases) of the Turnpike's Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) project. The purpose of the project was to:

Expand the Commission's statewide Advanced Traveler Information System to better inform motorists about traffic, weather and emergency conditions along the PA Turnpike through the use of highway advisory radio (HAR), variable message signs (VMS), closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, roadway weather information systems (RWIS), truck rollover warning system (TRWS) and, traffic flow detection system (TFDS).

Specifically, the Commission was looking to fill in the gaps of VMS, CCTV cameras and HAR signs throughout the Commission's mainline and northeast extension roadways, add new RWIS, TFDS and TRWS to specified locations, and to implement and integrate a Central Software to operate and control some of the Commissions' ITS subsystems.

This local evaluation report assesses how well the project goals and objectives were met, provides the direct and indirect benefits of the project, and discusses the technical and institutional issues that were encountered while completing the project.

Lessons Learned

A key component of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's ATIS project was the implementation and integration of a central software system to operate and control the Commission's ITS subsystems. Based on the challenges encountered during the software design and integration phase, the following set of lessons learned is highlighted.

  • Clearly define integration and control project limits. For this project, the first bid process resulted in a rejection of the bid and no selection. The software requirements and the large project area resulted in an extremely high bid that could not be justified. For the second bid process, the integration efforts of the field device deployment were better defined and the limits were set on the project. For example the TRWS functional requirements were re-evaluated and a less complex system with no software integration was designed. In addition, two field installation contracts were prepared, based on geography to provide better competition and economies with more localized contracts. Also, the contract required use of the Commission's existing wide area network (WAN) to convey data from the field devices to the Commission's operations center. The device deployment contracts had a stipulation added that the Acceptance Testing would be administered by the Design and Integration consultants (DMJM Harris and PB Farradyne), respectively. In addition to the two field device contracts, another separate contract was awarded for strictly software integration. As a result of a more clearly defined and controlled project, a favorable bid was obtained (within 1% of the engineer's estimate).
  • Follow the systems engineering approach. The systems engineering approach establishes the foundation for the project and helps to prevent scope creep.
    • For the integration project, a concept of operations, as well as a high level and detailed design requirements were created early on in the process and were agreed to by all project team members. This provided the project team with focus and direction. From this understanding, the detailed design, implementation, integration and testing, system verification and system acceptance were performed with few issues.
  • Know your field device inventory. At the beginning of the software integration project, the agency should have a list of all equipment that is owned, operated, and maintained by the agency. The list should include the following information about each piece of equipment: manufacturer/make/model; communications protocols; installation and test dates; warranty periods; spare parts inventory; software version; NTCIP compliance.
    • At the beginning of the project, the agency did not have all this information. When the field devices were integrated into the software, there were compatibility issues and multiple modules required to integrate similar equipment. Also, it was discovered that different versions or releases of similar equipment were not compatible with NTCIP standards and required multiple modules to integrate the equipment. This resulted in delays in the completion of the software.
    • In this project, the Commission did not know the status of the spare parts until the end of the maintenance period, when the contractor provided the equipment to the Commission. However, spare parts should be tracked during the installation/maintenance portion of the contract. On many projects spare equipment is used during maintenance if a part is malfunctioning or broken. The Commission needs to be able to verify that that the spare equipment that has been used is either restored or replaced with a working part, and that part is inventoried and accessible to the Commission.
  • Provide a burn-in period prior to operational testing. During this period, the operators will use the system under everyday working conditions, providing an opportunity for the field equipment to be used and stressed. It is during this initial period that the equipment is most likely to experience failures. If there are minor equipment failures, these can easily be corrected during the burn-in period, so that ideally, there will be no failures during the operational testing period. The burn-in period should coincide with the hands-on training.

Based on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's experience during the integration phase of this project, the agency learned the importance of having well-defined parameters for the integration of the project, following the systems engineering approach, maintaining a good inventory and allowing for a burn-in period. Through addressing these issues, an agency can contribute to the success of its ATIS project, and thus maximize the mobility and safety benefits of the system.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) Phase III Project

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) Phase III Project
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Cortelazzi, Lou, et al.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

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