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.
It is important for agencies undertaking large-scale construction projects to take a proactive approach at building public awareness for the project. Of equal importance is making sure the general public is provided relevant and timely information regarding any such project’s impact on their transportation options. The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) used a variety of techniques to achieve these goals when deploying ITS at the Big I interchange in Albuquerque.
- Build awareness by going directly to the public. This provides interested individuals and/or groups the ability to easily obtain information that may pertain to them.
- NMSHTD held public meetings and conducted outreach to reduce travel demand during the work zone period.
- NMSHTD administered over 1,000 surveys to assess the public's perception of the Big I interchange ITS deployment, and found that 60 percent of survey respondents were pleased with the accuracy and timeliness of the public information provided.
- Use the media as an informational outlet. A significant proportion of the general public relies on the media, be it the TV, the newspaper, or the radio, to provide daily roadway information. This dependence reinforces and encourages the agencies involved in large-scale construction projects to provide media sources with as much information as possible.
- Successful techniques used by NMSHTD include holding press conferences, issuing news releases, and keeping local media (especially those the public turns to for traffic information) up to date.
- NMSHTD sent faxes and e-mails out (at least weekly) to inform the media and other agencies about road closures, detours, schedule changes, and major incidents.
- Provide a mechanism that allows the public to obtain information and voice their opinion on the project.
- NMSHTD used a website to post contact information allowing the public to voice opinions on the functionality of the system and also identify any problems. The website also displayed camera images in real-time and updated them automatically, providing the public with current, timely information. Much of the other website content was refreshed on a weekly basis.
- Ensure all information provided is pertinent and accurate. If irrelevant and/or inaccurate information is provided, the public can quickly lose confidence and negative public relations result.
Building public awareness is a key element for any large-scale road construction project. Of additional importance is providing on-going information to the public via the media and/or a project website. Agencies ought to be diligent in ensuring all information relayed to the public is relevant and accurate.