Recognize that deployment delays can lead to a ripple effect of challenges that affect project deployment progress.
Great Lakes ITS project management experience with deployment delays associated with the Airport ITS Integration Project.
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United States

Great Lakes ITS Case Study and Lessons Learned for the Airport ITS Integration and Road Infrastructure Management System Projects Final Report, Wayne County, Michigan


In 2001, the U.S. Congress earmarked funds for selected projects that supported improvements in transportation efficiency, safety, traffic flow, reducing emissions, traveler information, alternative transportation modes, existing intelligent transportation systems (ITS), ITS integration, and promoting tourism. One such project was the Great Lakes ITS (GLITS) program in the Detroit, Michigan metropolitan area, which includes the Wayne County Road Information Management System (RIMS) and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport ITS Integration.

The RIMS Project is intended to integrate information currently gathered and stored in existing databases by various divisions within the Wayne County Department of Public Services (DPS) into one seamless system. Using a Web-based interactive program, the DPS and the traveling public can gain access to information on road conditions, construction project detours, and the real-time locations of DPS maintenance and snow removal crews.

The Detroit Metropolitan Airport ITS Integration project is intended to establish an airport traffic management center, which will be linked with the regional Michigan DOT traffic management center to optimize traffic flow in and out of the airport, as well as to optimize airport landside traffic flow to terminals and short-term parking facilities. The project involves the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and vehicle detectors to allow traffic and security personnel to monitor the entire airport roadway system. Dynamic message signs (DMS) will provide information to travelers to optimize passenger drop-off/pickup and short-term parking decisions.

Lessons Learned

Although the federal portion of the ITS Earmark funding is nearly free from time constraints, time can be an unexpected adversary to the deployment of an ITS project. The Earmark funding is designated by Congressional action and as such the funds can remain unspent for many years until the funds are either expended or Congressional action rescinds the funds. While in some situations this may be beneficial, allowing state and local agencies time to make funding arrangements, procure hardware, et cetera, the passage of time can also lead to a ripple effect of challenges which can slow deployment progress.

Some of the deployment challenges experienced by those involved in the Airport ITS Integration project reveal the consequences of time passage. In FY2001, Southeast Michigan received the ITS Earmark in the DOT Appropriations Bill. In April 2002, the Wayne County Airport Authority became a separate agency managed by an independent, seven-member Board of Directors. The creation of a separate independent agency complicated the allocation of funding for the Airport ITS project (under Michigan state law the agency receiving the funds needed to be an eligible government county, city, or village agency to administer the highway funds). Consequently, alternative funding arrangements had to be investigated to identify a method to allow Wayne County to move funding to WCAA so that WCAA could complete their portion of the project. Then in January 2003, a new Wayne County Executive was elected and, as a result of a change in the political leadership, the Airport ITS project lost a key project leader at Wayne County. For several years little progress was made as the project had no champion to provide leadership to overcome the funding issue. While this was occurring, new priorities at WCAA resulted in new projects emerging, one of the largest of which was a $418 million new north terminal project announced in May 2006.

The following time related suggestions are based on the GLITS Airport ITS Integration project experience.

  • Keep in mind that the longer a project takes to be deployed the greater the likelihood the project will lose key personnel. In addition to leadership changes due to changes in the political environment, long delays can result in the loss of key personnel due to numerous other factors such as desire to change jobs, retirements, promotions, health considerations, etc.
  • Be cognizant that the longer a project takes to be deployed the more likely stakeholder agencies could reorganize. Although probably less likely to occur than the loss of key personnel, the GLITS experience has shown that the reorganization of agencies can have a detrimental effect on the project deployment.
  • Realize that stumbling blocks that produce long delays can put a project in competition with other high priority emerging projects. The long delay for the Airport ITS Integration project pushed the ITS related deployment activities into the civil construction activities scheduled for building the new $418 million north terminal. As a result, the Airport ITS Integration project will be required to share WCAA staff and coordinate time resources to avoid conflicts with the construction activities- a responsibility that was not foreseen several years ago.

This lesson suggests that deployment delays and the associated passage of time can allow the introduction of new challenges to the ITS project. In essence, the passage of time can affect more than just the deployment schedule; agencies can reorganize, people can change jobs, project priorities change, and important new projects can also compound staff and time burdens on existing agency resources.

Great Lakes ITS Case Study and Lessons Learned for the Airport ITS Integration and Road Infrastructure Management System Projects Final Report, Wayne County, Michigan

Great Lakes ITS Case Study and Lessons Learned for the Airport ITS Integration and Road Infrastructure Management System Projects Final Report, Wayne County, Michigan
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Sanchez, Robert R. and Carol Mitchell
U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration
Goal Areas