After spending about $8.3 million, Dallas-Fort Worth area residents might be able to commute faster.
Civil engineering professors from UTA, Texas A&M and Southern Methodist University are working on developing a new corridor management plan to reduce traffic jams and facilitate faster transportation in the Metroplex region.
“We are planning to start a new 5-1-1 system through which the general public can constantly be updated about the traffic conditions in the area, the plan of action in case of an incident on a street they are about to travel and any information of the kind,” said civil engineering professor Siamak Ardekani, who is representing UTA in this project. “This would help save a lot of time and reduce congestion on the freeways.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation and Dallas Area Rapid Transit are funding this five-year project. Other partners include the North Central Texas Council of Governments and Telvent, an engineering corporation.
The Metroplex is one of the two regions in the country that was selected for this project. San Diego, Calif., is the other site.
The project started with the idea to find an efficient way to control traffic on U.S. Highway 75, which is a major freeway in the Metroplex, Ardekani said.
“Whenever there was any incident, foreseen or unforeseen, on that freeway, the traffic there was being diverted into nearby arterials, and it was not properly coordinated, thereby creating lane blocks and lot of congestion,” he said.
UTA played a major role in data collection and providing information about the general traffic patterns and frequency of accidents for different areas in the region, Ardekani said.
“UTA’s participation helped from a research and innovation side,” said Natalie Bettger, North Central Texas Council of Governments senior project manager. “UTA is on the cutting edge in terms of research and implementing new plans. The professors brought that expertise on board.”
Texas A&M is working on response plans in case of an incident and Southern Methodist University is working on making simulation models to test the response plans under real-life conditions, Ardekani said.
The professors collected data from sensors, which can detect the volume of traffic and their travelling speed, cameras, highway toll tag radars and Bluetooth monitoring stations, Ardekani said.
“It was very, very important to make sure that we provided high-quality information to our partners because they needed it to develop better response plans,” said Stephen Mattingly, a civil engineering associate professor who is also working on this project on behalf of UTA.
The current traffic control system was set to operate under regular traffic conditions and that was posing a problem, Ardekani said.
“That was a problem, because whenever there is an incident on the freeway, the speeds and volume of traffic are not the same. We cannot have the same timings between signal changes like we normally do,” he said. “We needed to develop a system that could self-generate a response to the incident and coordinate traffic as needed.”
The public can subscribe to notifications from the 5-1-1 system and will be notified if there is any change in traffic conditions, Ardekani said.
“They will receive texts, emails or phone calls depending on the method of communication they subscribe to,” he said. “It will help them reach their respective destinations in time and make navigation much easier.”
Mattingly said the cooperation and support form the cities in the area was commendable.
“I remember working on a similar project for my dissertation, and we had the same kind of great ideas but had tough luck with the city officials,” he said. “It is nice to see ideas that started about 20 years ago finally reach to that level where cities are willing to cooperate.”