Over the next few months, motorists in Georgia will begin to experience the benefits of a new statewide program that enhances highway safety and provides them with roadside assistance when they need it, while simultaneously providing agencies with information about infrastructure issues.
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) new Coordinated Highway Assistance & Maintenance Program (CHAMP) has begun its phased launch in Northeast Georgia, with plans to roll out the service to five other districts in the state by May. CHAMP serves most interstate highways across Georgia located outside of metropolitan Atlanta. While CHAMP is distinct and separate from the Department’s long-standing and highly successful Highway Emergency Response Operators (HERO) program in the Atlanta region, its addition to Georgia DOT’s safety program makes Georgia the first state to provide statewide interstate highway assistance.
CHAMP teams report or resolve roadway maintenance issues and assist law enforcement with traffic incidents to ensure safe, quick clearance and efficient traffic flow. They provide immediate notification about bridge or roadway damage, downed signs, missing road markings, signal malfunctions, and commercial vehicle crashes and spills. They also clear clogged drains, clean up minor non-hazardous spills, and remove debris, vegetative growth and abandoned vehicles. CHAMPs also aid motorists who need help.
Georgia DOT (GDOT) is implementing CHAMP in two-week intervals across the state through May. After the initial launch, the second of six roll-outs is scheduled for February 21 in East Central Georgia. When fully operational, CHAMP will be staffed by 48 full-time operators and 18 full-time dispatchers. A total of 51 branded, custom-fitted CHAMP trucks will patrol 16 different routes on interstates (except short stretches of I-24 and I-59) seven days a week, 16 hours a day, and will be on call the other eight hours. CHAMP is a statewide complement to GDOT’s HERO incident management program in Metro Atlanta, which has served motorists for more than 20 years. HERO’s primary duty is to clear roads at traffic-related incidents so that normal traffic flow is restored; it also assists stranded motorists. HERO patrols 310 miles (499km) of Metro Atlanta freeways on 31 routes every day during peak hours and responds to incidents 24/7.
“What makes CHAMP different from HERO and other similar patrols across the country is that it specifically addresses highway maintenance,” explained GDOT state traffic engineer, Andrew Heath. “CHAMP operators are Georgia DOT’s eyes on the road. By proactively responding to maintenance issues, as well as addressing incident clearance and motorist assistance, they will make Georgia highways safer.”
GDOT commissioner Russell R McMurry added, “Ensuring the safety of our roadways for motorists and first responders is our primary goal. With that in mind, we are excited to launch CHAMP in order to expand our patrol and assistance services across the state. This is a complimentary public service made possible by Georgia’s Transportation Funding Act of 2015. CHAMP would not be feasible without those funds.”