We live in an age of information, facts and data, and the internet of things. As an industry we have no excuse that we don't know what the average speed or flow is in a work zone at any given time, or the impacts a road construction project has on traffic.
It’s interesting to me that we require the provider of traffic control to inspect, provide surveillance of devices, make recommendations to solve issues they identify in the field, provide daily and weekly paper logs of events, change speed limits, call the Traffic Management Center when they setup and take down lane closures - all without the use of technology (ITS). We are in the age of communication flexibility, Snapchat and Facebook for documenting our every move and electronic data about just about everything under the sun, except for work zones…until now.
Permanent ITS has been used as a tool for Traffic Management and Operations for the network as a whole. These are all AC-powered with high speed fiber optic communications. Many times we see permanent “like” portable ITS deployed for communicating to the traveling public via roadside message boards and occasionally to a website. Some agencies have tried to use their internal systems to control contractor devices which, in my experience, leads to finger pointing and disruption of internal operations. Others have tried to write specifications for an IWZ system that is stand alone, only to find themselves in an expensive "gotcha" situation when they need modifications and it requires a change order. Here is the reality: Deployment of IWZ system applications - the automation of message signs (ie. dynamic merge, travel time, queue detection) routinely work 99% perfectly 95% of the time, and their utilization is roughly 5% of the time. WHAT you say! Have your provider show you the stats. So the way to get value out of your system 100% of the time is to integrate your entire construction project into the ITS value chain. From top to bottom…or really it is from the bottom to the top. The Traffic Control Supervisor placing the signs and drums has the first hand knowledge of what is going on. Raise your expectations of what they provide. Image documentation of the project 4 times per day, continuous speed reports, incidents by location, travel time per day - this is all easily accomplished on every state project with the use of ITS. Permanent, portable, and mobile.
What I mean by this is positioning your existing investment. We at Salander do this by integrating agency feeds. This process, done once, un-taps the data we need to be efficient in the future. The same is true with the data and information that we collect. This can be provided into the agency systems so that the tools they use daily, now has information provided “from the field” (from the contractor's portable devices and the traffic control supervisors). There is no reason to operate multiple systems. One major benefit of this approach is clear lines of responsibility. The contractor is in charge of their stuff and the DOT manages theres, but BOTH are available and become workzone ITS when there is a work zone present.
Yes, as data flows from beginning to end, this is a must and expectation. Many times we see penalties for stand alone systems that operate 5% of the time with penalties of $250 to $1000 per hour! This is advocated by the IWZ industry to scare people away from performing the services (it is good business for those selling and renting equipment, while controlling the market). Surely no traffic control company is smart enough or has the necessary expertise to manage and deploy sensors. We need to bring in our special signs/sensors, and not use yours. Or they can sell or rent you signs that will work for this project. They promote "lock in", the very thing NTCIP was created to avoid. Heres the thing, traffic control companies are in the service business, and they own and are experts in portable ITS devices.
Integrating the permanent and the portable is what we do, and it allows DOTs to maximize the use of their existing investment (permanent ITS) and benefit from the innovations happening in portable ITS (smarter work zones). Combine this with the Traffic Control contractor's workforce to create Mobile ITS, and your agency will have the greatest and safest work zones possible today. A work zone you can be proud of in 2016.