Many intersections and corridors are becoming more and more congested; resulting in increased delays, increased gas consumption and added pollution. As individual intersections and corridors become more congested and operating characteristics deteriorate, this adversely impacts the entire transportation system. Providing additional capacity by construction of new lanes or additional roadways is less likely due to the high cost and lack of funding for these types of improvements. The search for even the slightest amount of congestion relief make low cost alternatives such as an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) an important consideration in any comprehensive plans to address traffic congestion and decreased mobility.
Picture if you will, video monitors connected to strategically placed cameras at some of Washington County's busiest intersections. Engineers then monitor the video and can readily adjust signal timing at congested locations, respond to emergencies, or deal with impacts, such as special events, to ensure an acceptable flow of traffic through an intersection and along our roadway corridors.
One might also see variable and changeable message signs along the roadway, displaying traveler information so that motorists have an opportunity to avoid an accident or congested route. Weather information will be available, that when viewed via the Internet, gives motorists real time conditions, allowing motorists to make choices for their drive to work before they leave their home. This is the essence of an ITS system, which allows engineers to maximize the efficiency of the roadway network.
Sounds expensive? Not really, when compared with building more roads. ITS is much more economical and has more to offer the full range of Washington County roadways, rather than expending scarce resources on construction of improvements on a few roadways. With this in mind, Washington County Traffic Engineering is planning for the future in an effort to reduce congestion and increase capacity on our roads with an investment in a Traffic Management. Grant money has been awarded from ODOT and Metro. The proposed project will further the development of a traffic monitoring and regulation system on the major road network that will allow the County to maximize the existing roadway capacity at a low cost.
The initial project consisted of a needs assessment, allowing for the strategic development of an appropriate implementation plan.
The needs assessment:
- Identified challenges, vision and benefits of ITS
- Identified core elements such as, traffic monitoring, traffic control and traveler information
- Identified ITS implementation strategies
- Identified staffing and budget needs for implementation.
Secondly, projects are underway to begin setup of the initial systems hardware and communications network, beginning on our priority corridors with signal systems and monitoring, such as installing direct traffic signal communications, to allow remote monitoring and timing changes. In addition, vehicle and bicycle detection and traffic signal controller upgrades are planned. With this capability the technicians can more readily adjust signal timing, respond to emergencies, deal with impacts, such as special events and ensure an acceptable flow of traffic through the intersection and along roadway corridors.
Finally, advanced implementation includes more sophisticated ITS tools such as closed circuit television, variable and changeable message signs, and implementation of real time signal timing and traveler information.