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Innovations - Intelligent Transportation Systems
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Tools help drivers make smart decisions in work zones
Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) use electronic sensing, computer processing, and communications equipment to collect traffic-related information, analyze it, and convey it to drivers and operators of highway systems. The reduced capacity of many work zones creates significant congestion and makes travel times unpredictable for motorists. Traffic incidents or other disruptions in the work zone further exacerbate the problem. With better information, drivers know what to expect and can more accurately gauge travel time and make necessary driving adjustments.
Using ITS in work zones offers many benefits, including the following:
Available ITS options are designed to operate manually or automatically. With manual systems, operators monitor traffic cameras and other data, determine if a problem exists, and decide on appropriate actions, such as activating portable changeable messages signs (PCMS) or dynamic message signs (DMS) and notifying emergency response or courtesy patrol personnel. Other systems are designed to operate automatically, disseminating messages on PCMS, DMS, highway advisory radio, and over the Internet based on preset thresholds of detected reductions in speed or increased queuing in the work zone area.
Data suggest that the proper design and application of work zone ITS can have a significant impact on work zone performance. Evaluations of ITS installations indicate reductions of 41 to 75 percent in work zone delays, smoother traffic flow through work zones, 56 to 60 percent reductions in queue lengths, and positive motorist feedback. It also appears that work zone ITS can lead to fewer crashes and safer environments for motorists and highway workers, although data are harder to quantify.
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