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Pennsylvania launching multimodal ‘smart corridor’ initiative along I-76

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has launched the start of a long-range, comprehensive, multimodal transportation management plan designed to enhance travel and safety along the Interstate 76 (Schuylkill Expressway) corridor between King of Prussia and Philadelphia.

PennDOT plans to employ a series of ‘smart corridor’ strategies and technologies over the next several years through an Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) initiative intended to maximize capacity on I-76, optimize traffic flow on adjacent roadways, and incentivize transit, bicycle and pedestrian travel throughout the region. The first phase of the plan includes installing a series of Variable Speed Limit (VSL) and Queue Warning (QW) systems on I-76 in Montgomery County. The VSL systems will display regulatory speed limits that can change based on real-time expressway traffic and weather conditions to improve vehicle flow and safety by warning drivers of changing travel conditions. The QW systems will be deployed to provide real-time displays of electronic warning messages to alert motorists of significant slowdowns ahead to reduce sudden stopping and the potential for rear-end crashes.

Construction on the project begins later this month and will be completed by summer 2019, followed by a six-month testing period. Local company Carr & Duff Inc., of Huntingdon Valley, is the general contractor on the US$8.65m project, which is financed with 80% federal and 20% state funds. Preliminary design is currently underway on the next phase of the corridor-wide transportation management plan, which will include the modernization of traffic signal systems along several roadways running near the expressway; expansion of public transit service along the Manayunk/Norristown regional rail line; and transforming the existing shoulders on portions of I-76 to accommodate an additional or ‘flexible’ travel lane during peak travel times.

To complement ‘flexible’ lane use on I-76, PennDOT will incorporate additional smart corridor initiatives such as:

  • Ramp metering – Red and green traffic signals to control the frequency with which vehicles enter the flow of traffic from entrance ramps to increase vehicle throughput during peak hours and increase expressway speeds;
  • Junction control – The use of overhead electronic signs over travel lanes to regulate or close lanes at merge areas to improve traffic flow at high-volume interchanges, including US 202/US 422, I-476 and US 1;
  • Dynamic lane assignments – Overhead electronic signs provide information for each travel lane on the expressway to identify open lanes and alert drivers of upcoming lane closures due to crashes or disabled vehicles;
  • Multimodal enhancements – In partnership with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), PennDOT plans to provide real-time transit information on electronic message signs along I-76 in conjunction with SEPTA’s potential deployment of a Smart Parking pilot program. The message board displays will inform motorists of transit station parking availability and real-time train departure times to better inform citizens of transit travel options. SEPTA also intends to enhance service on the Manayunk/Norristown Regional Rail line.

“We are very focused on investing in and using our technology to make travel safer and smoother,” said PennDOT secretary, Leslie S Richards. “This initiative is a fantastic example of how we’re wisely using funds to maximize our existing network and improve mobility in the surrounding communities.”

June 14, 2018

Written by Adam Frost

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