The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) has revealed how it has provided logistical and technical support to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in the I-35 corridor for the last seven years, including developing a first-of-its-kind traveler information system.
TxDOT original began its ‘My35’ project on I-35 in 2008, to improve mobility and safety along the corridor. The focus to date has been to expand and enhance the 96-mile long (154.5km) stretch between Hillsboro and Salado, a vital section of the route north of Austin traveled by 100,000 to 130,000 motorists per day.
Since 2010, TTI has been helping TxDOT keep drivers informed during the construction process. To accomplish this, TTI installed Bluetooth readers, Wavetronix sensors, and end-of-queue warning systems along I-35, and then formulated algorithms to integrate and mine the massive amounts of data gathered. The results are reliable traffic forecasts and regular construction incident reports delivered via various media.
The TTI’s Traveler Information System provides updates that are delivered via permanent dynamic message signs (DMS) installed in the corridor that provide real-time travel estimates for, and the distance to, upcoming towns, and also warn drivers of slowdowns and accidents ahead.
Travelers and EMS personnel can also receive construction updates via SMS text message, Twitter, web and email. Using data parsed by TTI’s algorithms, the online map generates reports in real time specifically requested by users, such as expected points of delay, current travel times, incident locations and detour options. Once construction in TxDOT’s Waco District is finished, the equipment generating the traveler information will stay online as a permanent enhancement, aiding TxDOT Austin District’s new US$4.1bn ‘Mobility 35’ project on another section of I-35.
“To accomplish our mission, we asked three questions: Where are work-zone lane closures? Where will travelers be delayed? And, what are the current traffic conditions?” explained Bob Brydia, TTI’s principal investigator on the project. “A real success story of this project is how effectively we’ve been able to interface with TxDOT’s LoneStar traffic management system. We feed our information to TxDOT, and that helps drive the messages seen along the roadway.”
Jodi Wheatley, TxDOT’s I-35 public information officer, commented, “We want to be as responsive and helpful as we can during the reconstruction process. That would be much more difficult without TTI’s Traveler Information System. The Institute’s expertise has made I-35 construction in the Waco District safer, easier to negotiate, and more predictable for travelers.”