The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has announced a new traffic management system called the Flex Route that will soon be in operation on US-23, just north of Ann Arbor, as part of a major road and bridge improvement project.
Similar in many ways to the smart motorway system that is widely used across the UK, the Flex Route is a lane control system comprising overhead signs, CCTV cameras and electronic message boards. The new system opens the inside median shoulder to traffic during peak periods, such as morning and afternoon rush hours, and during special events and incidents when traffic volumes are heavier.
A green arrow on the overhead signs will indicate when the median shoulder is safely available for use. A red X will indicate when the shoulder is closed and not for use as an additional lane. The dynamic message signs (DMS) will display estimated journey times and other information, while the overhead signage will show variable speed limits. The system will be maintained around-the-clock by MDOT’s Statewide Operations Center (STOC) based in Lansing.
The Flex Route is part of a US$92m investment along the corridor that included replacing bridges at 6 Mile Road, 8 Mile Road, and N Territorial Road, repairing bridges at four other locations, extending and upgrading ramps, repairing pavement between M-14 and Silver Lake Road, and expanding intelligent transportation services (ITS) technology.
During incidents, motorists can see up to a 50% savings in travel time when the Flex Route is open and operating. Having the Flex Route in operation is also expected to reduce the number of secondary crashes, thus further increasing safety.
MDOT says that due to the ITS, roadside units (RSUs) and wireless communications technologies that have been deployed on the project, Michigan’s first Flex Route will provide the communications backbone to support connected autonomous vehicles (CAV) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.
“Michigan is well known for our work on connected vehicles and having connected roadways will help us maintain our global leadership in mobility,” said Governor Rick Snyder. “The new Flex Route technology is a winning combination for traffic management, convenience and safety.”
MDOT’s University Region engineer, Paul Ajegba, commented, “The Flex Route will be used for the first time in Michigan on US-23 just north of M-14. Using this innovative system is a more economical way to manage peak-hour congestion and increase safety along the corridor.”