WSDOT is starting to ramp up it’s public information campaign for Active Traffic Management Systems (ATMS). It was a good choice on their part to re-brand ATMS, and other associated ITS technologies, as Smarter Highways rather than the super nerdy acronym speak that engineers love. Continuing this theme, rather than fixating on the technology, WSDOT has chosen to focus on the driver experience, explain why this technology is needed and how it will improve drivers lives.
As part of this WSDOT has released information about Smarter Highways including the video above. I like the video but think that the interactive website does an even better job of stepping drivers through what to expect and how they should react. WSDOT also has a wordy folio, and a slick card.
More after the jump.
It’s good to see all this information because successful ATM systems must have the buy-in of drivers. This buy-in must come from an understanding that the system isn’t some big brother scheme to control them, rather it is an advanced information system that is designed to make their drive safer while also reducing congestion and harmonizing traffic. Ensuring that drives see this as an information system, not a penal system is critical.
With that said the speeds displayed on the sign bridges are the legal limit and will be enforced. WSP already has experience enforcing variable speed limits on the passes but will probably need some time to work out the most effective way to enforce the speed limits. When there is no speed reduction the signs will be off, which should help to ensure that drivers do not become indifferent to the system over time. Drivers will learn that if the system is active there is a reason for it. Also when this system launches, speed limits of all lanes will be the same. WSDOT might look at higher speed limits in the HOV lane but it appears that new legislation is necessary for that to be possible. I think this is the largest oversight of the project and hopefully is revised next legislative session.
Construction of the sign bridge foundations has been under way for some time now, which can be see every 1/2 mile on Northbound I-5. The first sign bridge will be placed in January, with the entire system on I-5 and SR-520 (I-5 to 130th Ave NE) will be operational this summer. The system on I-90 (I-5 to 150th Ave SE) will be operational by Spring 2011. Funding for I-5 is included in the Viaduct replacement project and SR-520 and I-90 are fund through the FHWA Urban Partnership which is part of the SR-520 bridge replacement project.
Please note that while STB obviously isn’t a huge fan of highways, better use of our existing roads, especially when it makes them safer, is good news.