Jul 06 2012
Data Analytics

How New Technologies Have Improved Road Conditions

By applying new technologies to highways, many states have seen an improvement in traffic without going over budget.

By using new technologies on roads, states can decrease traffic congestion and increase road safety while reducing overall costs and being more environmentally friendly. Systems such as Active Traffic Management (ATM) and automated sensors keep traffic flowing with real-time data predictions and communication with drivers. Cities that have installed these systems, such as Seattle and New York, have seen fewer traffic jams and car accidents.

Traffic Control

Active Traffic Management systems have proved to be the most cost-effective and successful way of improving road safety. Traffic sensors alert computer data centers and engineers about real-time data, which is used to predict traffic issues and develop an alert system to warn drivers. This allows engineers to control speed limits and prevent collisions during heavy traffic hours.

When it comes to sensors, there are several types: conductivity, automated, and fiber-optic. Most sensors detect and track road conditions, but others predict road complications. Sensors improve highway safety but they are expensive and time-consuming to install.

Washington state built the first Active Traffic Management system in the United States. The ATM system, installed in August 2010, is seven miles long and runs along Interstate 5 in the Seattle metropolitan area. The theory is that most traffic jams are a result of car accidents, which often happen during traffic congestion. Therefore, the challenge for Washington’s Department of Transportation was to decrease car crashes and, consequently, decrease traffic jams. Electronic signs along the interstate display ever-changing speed limits, which are determined by real-time road conditions. Collisions have progressively decreased since the $21-million system was installed.

In 2011, New York City installed the largest Active Traffic Management system in the United States. The system extends throughout 23 intersections, a 110-square block radius. New York City installed 32 traffic video cameras, 100 sensors, and 12,400 traffic signals throughout downtown Manhattan. The total cost for the installation was $1.6 million. The system continues to grow throughout the city.

Other states that installed ATM systems include Florida, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

Light the Way

Another cost-effective improvement is converting conventional road lights to an LED system. Throughout the years, we’ve seen LED lighting take over the market. From Christmas lights to computers, LED is a more eco-friendly and energy-efficient alternative to incandescent and fluorescent lighting. Even though they are more expensive initially, LED lights deliver long-term savings for the city and the state.

In Los Angeles, LED traffic lights are predicted to save the city around $4 million annually. Some cities, such as Boston, Cleveland, and Seattle, have even switched park lights to LED bulbs. Most cities, like Los Angeles, are converting to LED lighting in an effort to make the city greener.

Worthy Investment

When building smart highways, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. The purpose of smart highways is to increase road efficiency without affecting your entire budget. Little by little, these changes decrease traffic congestion, increase safety, and reduce environmental impact. In terms of cost and time, building a smart highway is a more efficient way of solving traffic issues than building new roads is.


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