Highways England (HE) is to start work next month on a £7m (US$8.5m) pilot scheme to cut congestion along the M62 motorway near Warrington in Cheshire, with the project using a form of the US-style ramp metering system to control traffic flows.
HE is delivering the innovative project at Croft Interchange, where junction 21a of the M6 meets junction 10 of the M62, to give drivers smoother and more reliable journeys along the eastbound M62, one of the busiest commuter congestion hotspots in the region. From next summer, smart motorway technology, such as electronic information signs and variable mandatory speed limits on the M62, will be used alongside traffic lights on the motorway link roads from the northbound and southbound M6. Money for the project is coming from a £150m (US$182.5m) innovation fund, which is designed to encourage the agency to look at new technology or novel techniques to improve journeys.
The M62-M6 project brings together motorway technologies, infrastructure and procedures, from the UK and around the world, to maximize a number of benefits. The scheme is a technology-driven approach that will increase resilience of this section of the two motorways. All aspects of the scheme have been used elsewhere on the agency’s strategic road network and they are being combined in a new manner in the Motorway to Motorway (M2M) Metering Pilot Scheme. The principle of a ‘smart motorway’ with Variable Mandatory Speed Limits is already well understood and the use of traffic signals for ‘ramp metering’ is a well-used system linking the all-purpose network with HE’s network. Large elements of the pilot project will also form part of the permanent M62 junction 10 to junction 12 smart motorway system, which is due to start construction during 2018-19.
Large volumes of M62 eastbound traffic can cause weaving problems to occur between junctions 10 and 11. This problem is increased by large volumes of traffic joining the M62 from the M6 northbound and southbound link roads. The merging traffic causes additional congestion on the M62 through the Croft Interchange, which can result in queues forming along the M62 to junction 9 and beyond. M2M seeks to optimize the flow of traffic by regulating entry to the M62 from the link roads and controlling speed on the M62 mainline. As an added benefit, it will reduce the incentive to change lane on the approach and through the junction.
“This is an opportunity to combine existing technology and traffic management systems in a novel way to see whether we can give drivers using the frequently congested eastbound M62 lower journey times during peak hours and smoother, more reliable journeys,” explained Andy Withington (above), HE’s program delivery manager for the North West. “The system should be up and running by next summer and we will be monitoring its use over a period of up to a year. If it is successful, and we believe it will be, it could well be used on other Motorway to Motorway slip roads across the country.”