Broadband System Boosts Traffic Communications in Pennsylvania
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | Comments

 

 

  

By Lindsay A. Gross, Managing Editor


With more than 500 miles of highway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) recently deployed WiMAX-based technology to enhance traffic communications for its Pennsylvania Turnpike customers, said Carl Defebo, PTC media and public relations manager. “We have been aggressive in applying technology to improve operations. With regard to safety, the commission remains committed to maintaining its reputation of one of the safest highways in America by using the newest technologies,” Defebo said.

During the past 10 years, the PTC has invested more than $28 million on intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and $10 million on the communications infrastructure to support those systems. These systems include dynamic message signs, closed circuit TV, roadway weather information systems, truck rollover warning systems, highway advisory radio system, and visibility detection and warning system. “We have also integrated an emergency notification system with the ITS control software and our CAD system,” Defebo said. “The integrated system allows our traffic operations center to provide customers with turnpike roadway and weather conditions in real time. Our current 10-year capital improvement plan includes an additional $85 million investment in ITS technologies and an additional $20 million investment in communications infrastructure.”

The commission’s most recent investment is a Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems Voice, Interoperability, Data, Access (VIDA) broadband communications network to monitor turnpike traffic, improve public safety and help reduce roadway congestion. The ITS transmits real-time video to the PTC’s traffic operations center in Harrisburg, Pa., which monitors turnpike roadway conditions, construction projects and weather conditions that affect the 185 million vehicles that travel the turnpike each year. “The system uses real-time intelligence and turns it into valuable information for the people who pay to use the turnpike,” said Jeff Logan, regional sales director for Tyco Electronics.

The remote wireless video system is housed in a stand-alone, self-contained unit. When traffic slows to about 20 mph, the system automatically alerts the traffic operations center, which then determines the appropriate response. Additionally, each stand-alone unit is connected to an adjacent traffic alert sign that notifies drivers of road and traffic conditions. “It’s important that we alert our customers to the conditions on the road with enough time to allow them the opportunity to chose an alternate route,” said Barry Altman, manager, field technologies for the PTC. “Since VIDA broadband uses the WiMAX protocol, the system reduces the potential for interference and provides the assured quality of service we were looking for. The other systems we evaluated relied on Wi-Fi or other proprietary technologies that used unlicensed frequencies and were susceptible to interference.”

“VIDA broadband provides the ideal method to deliver video and data to the operations control center, enabling transportation and public-safety personnel to quickly react to any emergency on the turnpike,” Logan said. “Since we started envisioning this project, Tyco Electronics and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have always had the same goal: to use communications technology that makes traveling the turnpike as safe as possible, and with the VIDA broadband solution, we have achieved that goal.”

Turnpike Facts (2005 data)

Cars per day: 447,441

Length of turnpike: 530.5 miles

Vehicles per year: 188 million


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