MoDOT Seeks to Improve Travel, Safety

| March 20, 2013
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Modern techniques and technology are helping the Missouri Department of Transportation disseminate information quickly and to a broader audience.  Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk with John Nelson, a traffic management and operations engineer for MoDOT:

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Information from the Missouri Department of Transportation

What is ITS?
Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, encompass a broad range of information, control and electronics technologies for managing surface transportation, such as roads, bridges. When integrated into the roads and in vehicles themselves, these technologies help monitor and manage traffic flow, reduce congestion, provide alternate routes to travelers, enhance productivity, and save lives, time and money.Intelligent transportation systems provide the tools for skilled transportation professionals to collect and react to data about the performance of the system. One of the primary benefits of ITS is that much of the data is current, or “real time”. Having this real time data enhances traffic operators’ ability to respond to incidents, adverse weather or other capacity constricting events.

A Traffic Management Center is one type of Intelligent Transportation System. Missouri has three such centers, Scout in Kansas City and Gateway Guide in St. Louis, and Ozarks Traffic based out of Springfield. These centers monitor the roadways, respond to congestion and incidents and deliver information to travelers via a number of means, including web sites, dynamic message signs and highway advisory radio.

New ITS applications and technologies are being developed every day. MoDOT will continue to apply these where possible to improve driving in Missouri. Traffic incidents and congestion take a heavy toll in lives, lost productivity and wasted energy. ITS enables people and goods to move more safely and efficiently.

Why is ITS needed?
ITS is needed to better manage the growing amount of traffic on Missouri’s roadways. Cost, space and environmental concerns limit MoDOT’s ability to add more pavement. By using ITS, we’ll maximize the use of our existing road system. Take a look at how incidents on the road can tangle traffic:

    • 1 minute of lane blockage = 5 minutes of traffic congestion
    • During peak hours, 1 minute of lane blockage can cause about 20 minutes of traffic congestion.
    • A vehicle on the shoulder of the road reduces the capacity of the closest lane by 20 percent.
  • Approximately 60 percent of congestion is caused by incidents.
How does it work?
ITS is made up of many components that, when combined, serve as a powerful weapon at fighting traffic congestion.

    • Fiber-optic cables communicate information between monitoring devices and the MoDOT Traffic Operations Center.
    • Sensors provide information on average traffic speed and volume.
    • Closed-circuit cameras at major interchanges, intersections and river bridge crossings provide live video information on traffic flow.
    • Permanent mounted variable message signs inform motorists of incidents ahead and supply alternate route options.
    • Highway Advisory Radio signs equipped with lights that flash when there is new traffic information.
    • Integration of regional/urban traffic signal systems.
    • The toll-free cellular call-in system routed to the MoDOT Traffic Operations Center or the Missouri Highway Patrol for immediate response to incidents.
    • Improved highway milemarkers identify exactly where a motorist is to accurately pinpoint the location of incidents.
    • In Kansas City and St. Louis, Motorist Assist helps stranded motorists to get their vehicles out of traffic lanes and, if possible, running again.
    • Advanced Traveler Information on weather conditions, incidents and traffic congestion levels.
    • Direct media tie-in to traffic information for broadcast to motoring public.
    • Direct emergency services tie-in for immediate response to incidents.
    • Sharing information with transit centers regarding traffic flow.
  • In urban areas, ramp metering smoothes traffic flow on the highway near entrance ramps.

The statewide system currently includes 66 message signs to provide traffic information and help reduce congestion on heavily traveled sections of highway including Interstates 44 and 70. Besides helping motorists avoid delays and get to their destination safely with timely traffic information, these signs will also feature Amber Alert messages, which are helpful in recovering missing children.

In total, the current rural ITS system across Missouri includes the following roads:

  • I-29 – 5 cameras, 4 message signs
  • I-35 – 2 cameras, 2 message signs
  • I-44 – 27 cameras, 28 message signs
  • I-55 – 8 cameras, 6 message signs
  • I-57 – 1 cameras, 1 message signs
  • I-70 – 22 cameras, 20 message signs
  • US 60 – 4 cameras, 5 message signs
  • Statewide Non-Urban Total: 69 cameras and 66 message signs
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