ATSSA explores work zone technology applications

October 07, 2020
Smart arrow boards include GPS units, enabling DOTs to send real-time information to drivers.
Smart arrow boards include GPS units, enabling DOTs to send real-time information to drivers.

The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) collaborates with roadway safety infrastructure industry professionals each year to produce case studies that offer insights into key issues with the goal of saving lives.

One of those studies examined “Innovative Technology Applications in Work Zones,” a topic of critical importance to ATSSA and everyone who travels the nation’s roadways. It looked at what is being done in the DOTs in Iowa and Michigan.

Technological innovations continue to improve work zone safety. The “smart work zone” offers potential safety benefits to motorists, flaggers, and workers, as an increasing array of devices can provide real-time information to promote safer driver behavior.

The Iowa DOT’s Smart Work Zone Expansion Group developed a requirement for the use of smart arrow boards on all interstate projects beginning with the October 2020 contract letting season. 

Smart arrow boards are equipped with a cellular modem and GPS antenna. They capture data on the starting point of work zone lane closures. Navigation apps can use this information to warn drivers of upcoming lane closures in real time.

To ease the integration of these smart arrow boards, all of Iowa’s smart work zone device information is routed through central traffic management software. Iowa DOT requires all rented work zone devices to be configured to communicate with their existing software. 

To improve traffic management at driveway entry locations on two-way roads, the Michigan DOT (MDOT) deployed the Driveway Assistance Device (DAD). 

The DAD is a portable, trailer-mounted traffic signal head that can be placed at driveway entrances to one-lane work zones. It is meant to supplement other traffic control devices and flaggers within the work zone and can help motorists safely enter the work zone through the display of traffic signals. Since it started piloting the DAD in 2015, MDOT has gotten the per-unit price down to $1,950. MDOT determined that the DAD is most appropriate for low-volume driveways.

Other innovative technologies explored include:

  • Automated Flagger Assistance Devices (AFAD), which allow properly trained flaggers to control traffic from a safe location off the shoulder of the roadway.
  • Worksite Access Systems, which use sensors to trigger flashing lights that alert motorists of trucks entering the traffic space from the workspace, reducing close calls and improving awareness of the speed variance between motorists and trucks entering traffic.
  • Smart Work Zone Sensors, which can provide real-time data on the location of work zones, the location of devices, maintenance needs, and other information.

Each year’s studies are compiled into a booklet for release during ATSSA’s Annual Convention & Traffic Expo. The current case study will be part of the booklet released in February and available for  purchase online at ATSSA.com/CaseStudies. 

The Automated Flagger Assistance Device enhances safety with remote control away from the work site.
The Automated Flagger Assistance Device enhances safety with remote control away from the work site. 

Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Infrastructure Group are not liable for the accuracy, efficacy and validity of the claims made in this piece. The views expressed in this content do not reflect the position of the Roads & Bridges' Editorial Team.

Related Articles

Sagamore Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal
Sagamore Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal. Image: Army Corps of Engineers – Alpha Corp. Inspectional Services
It happens to all of us: We are sitting in the car in stalled traffic and wondering what the delay is and how long will it be? Most of the time it…
October 12, 2021
Speed Limits are easily reduced during construction activities and motorists are informed of their actual speed with Ver-Mac Speed Wizards from Street Smart.
Speed Limits are easily reduced during construction activities and motorists are informed of their actual speed with Ver-Mac Speed Wizards from Street Smart.
Today more than ever, we have all grown accustomed to getting whatever we want, quickly.  Just last weekend, for example, in between games at my son'…
August 18, 2021
Commercial vehicles and traffic passing through the construction of a new diverging diamond interchange at Happy Valley Road and Interstate 17 in Phoenix, Arizona in 2020.
Commercial vehicles and traffic passing through the construction of a new diverging diamond interchange at Happy Valley Road and Interstate 17 in Phoenix, Arizona in 2020. All images: Arizona DOT
We all want safer roads. A word that has frequently been used lately in the transportation safety industry is “zero.” The Federal Highway…
April 26, 2021
Thinking about work zones, many people will immediately have a vision of long lines of orange drums. Maybe they picture workers in hard hats and…
March 11, 2021
expand_less