The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will start construction this week on an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that will monitor traffic and provide data and feedback on highway and traffic conditions along the South Loop.
The cameras-which will be installed first-will run a continuous video stream that allows the city and TxDOT to monitor the flow of traffic. The cameras will not be operational until the rest of the system is in place.
"We will be testing the cameras sometime in November," said Frank Phillips, TxDOT director of traffic operations.
The message boards-Dynamic Message Signs (DMS)-will go up in December, and the complete system will be operational around mid-January. Message boards will be placed at three locations on the South Loop-on the westbound lanes before the University Avenue exit and on the westbound lanes in front of the Home Depot at the on-ramp. Eastbound lanes will have one sign on the Loop main lanes at Memphis.
"Signs have been strategically placed to give motorists enough time to react in case they need to exit the Loop to avoid congestion," said Phillips. "For example, the location of the eastbound sign gives traffic two exits to get off the loop in case the flyover ever needs to be closed. There will also be roadside sensors that monitor the flow of traffic and will alert the management centers if traffic starts to slow down."
The video stream from the cameras provides real-time information to be used to craft messages to the traveling public about accidents, weather or highway conditions that might be causing bottlenecks or congestion.
Messages will warn motorists about incidents ahead such as:
The data will be transmitted through a fiber optic cable that will link the camera system to traffic management centers-both at the city and TxDOT. Operators at the city traffic management center will also view traffic situations at the intersections on the frontage roads and make adjustments in signal timing to enhance the flow of traffic.
Other cities, including El Paso, Amarillo and Corpus Christi, already have ITS in place on freeways. Major metropolitan areas such as San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston have had the system in place for a number of years.
The new system on the Loop will include three Dynamic Message Signs, nine closed circuit cameras and several microwave vehicle detection devices. A similar system is planned for the Marsha Sharp Freeway.
Video streams will be available to the public via TxDOT's website when the system is launched in January.
Source: Texas Department of Transportation
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