The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is active in integrating smart technologies and better practices to optimize operational efficiency. The Central Regional Traffic Management Center (RTMC) has been established in Clearfield with a pilot partnership with Clearfield County 911. The “status display,” or “Web CAD” pilot initiative, blends the 911 computer-assisted dispatch console into RTMC’s day-to-day operation. The program goals are to reduce response times and emergency phone calls to boost RTMC operating efficiency. With the implementation of intelligent transportation system (ITS) devices such as signs, radio, and reporting systems, activation and response times should improve.
What Are Traffic Management Centers?
The RTMC administers the operations of highway and major roads 24-hours-a-day by ITS devices, patrols, and agencies for emergency response. PennDOT’s Statewide Transportation Management Center now allows for performance evaluation of mobility improvements and reduced traffic congestion. The RTMC sites are located in Bridgeville, Clearfield, Harrisburg, & King of Prussia. The programs have demonstrated results in decreasing activation timing by roughly 20 minutes.
Unexpected events, or traffic incidents, generally cause traffic flow problems which are handled by TMCs. Freeway Service Patrols (FSP) are on-hand during the heavy morning and later afternoon commuting times in areas including Allentown, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. A task force was assembled for several meetings throughout the year to offer training and discuss development.
When inclement weather arises, the potential for crashes is heightened. The goal is to recognize and inform drivers of the difficult conditions so that travel options are considered. The Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS) assist in periods of wintry weather through the use of dozens of special sensors.
The ITS system monitors the roadway traffic status and can coordinate with traffic signals. PennDOT has now implemented the use of over 800 cameras, over 500 signs for dynamic messaging, higher-occupancy lane controlling, and highway ramp monitoring. Over 14,000 traffic signals are now in use across the state.
Work (Construction) Zones
PennDOT is active in using safety equipment, staging areas, and alternative (detour) routes for construction projects. When the number of lanes is reduced, the most notable problems with traffic flow tend to exist. The Pennsylvania State Police are also active in monitoring and enforcing the laws regarding construction zones, often the site of rear-end collisions. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has implemented Smart Work Zone technology that features advanced warnings, in part through the use of rumble strips and automated speed detection technology. PennDOT posts roadway closure listings that are often broadcast out through the district press sites.
Autonomous Vehicle Capabilities
The infrastructure is actively being planned and developed for both vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication across the state. A recent study termed the Connected Vehicle Pool explored options through modeling and engineering work. Carnegie Mellon University and the FHA are both also involved in testing the autonomous vehicle capabilities as part of the broadly focused Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Strategic Plan that is being developed.
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