Traffic and Incident Management “To-Go!”

Seconds count in effective Traffic Incident Management (TIM) programs. The ability of transportation agencies to quickly clear traffic incidents improves the safety of drivers, crash victims, and emergency responders. Instances of secondary crashes are reduced, and normal traffic flow resumes sooner when responders and system users have real-time access to information.

Managing traffic operations is a multi-disciplinary process that is planned and coordinated to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents such as crashes, wrong-way drivers, obstructions, and weather events. Using the advanced technologies of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) can improve the ability of TIM programs and personnel to restore traffic flow as safely and quickly as possible.

Atlas, through its wholly owned subsidiary, TranSmart, provides wide-reaching, innovative, and high-value solutions for our transportation systems clients nationwide. Our solutions utilize leading technologies and data to improve operations, support efficiency and sustainability, and tackle basic transportation safety and mobility challenges.

In 2021, we helped the Illinois Tollway (Tollway) meet the demands of their limited access system of 294 miles of roadway in Northern Illinois with the development of the TIMS2GO Mobile Incident Response Tool.

The Tollway’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC) utilizes the Traffic and Incident Management System (TIMS) integrated advanced traffic management system to manage traffic safety. TIMS uses 1,356 cameras, 461 Dynamic Message Signs (DMS), multiple lane control signs, and the 17-mile SmartRoad on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), with active traffic management features connected to Illinois State Police Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD).

On average, more than 650 events are reported daily to the Tollway’s TOC for validation and management. Historically, the TOC has been the place for incident management staff to gather, monitor, and manage events. However, COVID-19 restrictions resulted in significant changes to the way the TOC operates as the Tollway worked to limit personnel exposure to the virus and shifted to a more remote operational environment. This prompted the Tollway to accelerate its efforts to bring the TOC to previous key staff.

The result is TIMS2GO which brings situational awareness to incident managers, Tollway leadership, and Illinois State Police by putting several key elements of the TOC in their hands via tablets, cell phones, and/or laptops. Incident details, streaming videos, congestion, Tollway vehicle status, ITS device status, and event histories are securely and rapidly accessible.

TranSmart led the needs considerations and design efforts with Parsons Corporation as part of the TIMS integration team to rapidly develop the mobile version of the operations center for key staff.

The TIMS2GO implementation goals and approach are perhaps best highlighted by the Tollway team in this video:

Outcomes:
The initial rollout of TIMS2GO has been completed for pertinent Tollway operations departments, key personnel, and select senior staff. The system’s implementation is scalable such that additional video servers can support increased video streaming demands over time. The Tollway is currently evaluating added features and connectivity opportunities with additional regional stakeholders as policy considerations allow.

TIMS2GO puts the critical elements of Traffic Incident Management monitoring into the hands of response personnel.

TIMS2GO supported recent collaboration between law enforcement and traffic operations by providing video of traffic disruptions tied to a planned public protest which was unrelated to the Tollway.

Team feedback has been favorable from several functional perspectives, such as:

  • Tollway incident personnel are actively using TIMS2GO to support operational awareness, monitor status at the scene and more efficiently communicate with the TOC, roadside assistance, and dispatch.
  • Responders can see and monitor responses with fewer trips outside the vehicle reducing the risk of injury.
  • Reduced telephone traffic to the TOC in coordination of incident response, helping to streamline the response.
  • ITS maintenance crews can use the system on site during repair activities to validate DMS and Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) repairs.
  • Managers can readily access inventory and traffic data trends in formal and ad-hoc meetings to reduce post-meeting action items.
  • The implementation further strengthens an already strong relationship between the TOC and field staff.

ITS Outlook:
According to the ITS Joint Program Office (JPO), within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the deployment and continued development of ITS technologies will transform our national transportation system and deliver “greater livability to our communities and to our daily lives.”

The federal government continues to invest in ITS for “greener, smarter, and safer” transportation. Mandated by the 2015 FAST Act, the USDOT is expediting the deployment and integration of ITS for passenger and freight transportation systems with a total national investment in deployed ITS already exceeding $25 billion. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act establishes funding for ITS projects at an annual average of $1.46 billion from the Highway Trust Fund, and $280 million from the General Fund. In addition, congestion relief, mitigation, and air quality Improvement projects can expect more than $3 billion in federal funding.

Through the recent acquisition of TranSmart, Atlas is well positioned to assist public and private clients with this growing number of ITS projects. Our ITS team is full service, with well-rounded staff capable of developing successful strategies and solutions like TIMS2GO. We support user needs, designs, operational integration, and full-service testing to ensure successful client outcomes.

TranSmart is heavily involved with other ITS applications including Connected and Automated (CAV) Vehicle technology and safety programs including video analytics testing tied to wrong-way drivers and lane blockage detection. These safety solutions are undergoing analysis and evaluation currently and can be gradually integrated into the client’s operations to align with their systems engineering processes.

Author: Scott Lee, PE
Chief Engineer, Innovation and Technology at TranSmart, an Atlas Company
Current President of ITS Midwest

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