FHWA’s Tracy Scriba recently published an article on work zone ITS entitled, “Creating Smarter Work Zones” (Publication number FHWA-HRT-14-003). Please read it at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/14marapr/06.cfm . It is a short article but makes several excellent points. We will touch on a few of them here.
She begins by making a case for the need for more and better tools to improve work zone safety. Then Tracy provides this quote: “The success stories of technology used to mitigate work zone impacts continue to mount nationally, to the point that the traveling public is now beginning to expect and even demand it,” says Gerald Ullman, senior research engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. “I believe that those agencies and contractors who learn how to best incorporate work zone technology into their decision making processes and ways of doing business will be the most successful and profitable in the future.”
Ms. Scriba then adds, “Technological solutions once were limited to a single purpose and operated independently. …agencies now can integrate solutions over multiple platforms to analyze data and provide travelers and work zone practitioners with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.” Both of these comments point to the growing acceptance and use of work zone ITS systems and to the fact that the more they are used, the more additional benefits have become apparent. Now we aren’t just improving work zone safety and efficiency, we are also collecting valuable data that can be used to measure the effectiveness of those work zones.
This blog has often discussed the disconnect between work zone practitioners and ITS practitioners. Tracy explains it very well. “As in other areas of technology, practitioners may have difficulty staying abreast of current technologies, especially if their primary expertise is design or construction. ITS staff members often do not interact with construction staff, leading to reduced understanding of work zone issues by those with the technology expertise. Similarly, design and construction staff may have limited awareness of what technology is available, a reluctance to use technology or ITS, or difficulty in using it effectively.”
Finally she touches on another topic we have touched on previously and that is a tiered standard special provision for work zone ITS systems. “To help guide its decision making, (Illinois DOT) is establishing a policy for the use of different types of smart work zone systems. “One of our key lessons learned was that we need to develop a tiered statewide contract special provision for ITS that will allow for competition between all smart work zone systems and establish a policy to guide where we want to use these different types of systems,” IDOT’s Nemsky says. “In the past, it’s been decided on a project-by-project basis based on [our] knowledge of the project area, traffic incident data, and sight distance issues. We also do queuing analysis for all interstate projects. We are envisioning having three different tiers in our policy and special provisions to recommend different types of smart work zone technology based on factors such as whether a project is on an urban or rural interstate and what level of delays are anticipated.” Many states are now taking this approach including Illinois (quoted here),Texas and Indiana. Several more are changing to this approach including Oregon. Experience has shown that construction design folks who aren’t yet comfortable with work zone ITS, can use a system like this to quickly and easily specify a system appropriate for each project.
Publications like this one help speed adoption of work zone ITS. Please pass it on to anyone involved with work zones. And let’s hope Tracy Scriba continues to write these wonderful articles.