Jacksonville ITS master plan revealed

Transportation and technology combine to make roads safer

News Financial News and Daily Record May 29, 2007
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The First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization (FCMPO), which includes all of Florida’s Duval County and portions of Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties, unveiled its First Coast Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Regional Master Plan on May 23, according to a report in the Financial News and Daily Record. The ITS involves the partnering of area transportation, technology and law enforcement agencies all with the common goal of making area roads safer.

The coalition “involves over 60 agencies and 100 individuals. It’s multi-jurisdictional,” Jeff Sheffield, director of planning for FCMPO, told the newspaper.

The plan to integrate dozens of agencies and individuals goes back to 2004 when FCMPO realized there was no sense in creating an ITS for just Duval County, Sheffield said. All four area counties – Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns – had to be involved to make a system that effectively integrated technological advancements in vehicles, road signage and the road itself.

“You can’t have a camera bought in Nassau County not be able to communicate with St. Johns County,” Sheffield told the paper.

“This is the fruition of years of effort,” said Jacksonville City Council member Lake Ray, who has been working on the project for five years, according to the paper. “We had to get the blueprint, then get the master plan. It’s time to move forward and put ITS into motion.”

The idea of installing ITS locally first inspired Ray after the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s trip to Dallas where he witnessed how the city, public transportation agencies, local and state law enforcement and other entities were able to cooperate in a system that alerted law enforcement and drivers of traffic issues and emergencies, the paper said.

Despite technology being seemingly everywhere in today’s world, it is lacking in our infrastructure, Ray told the paper. “To bring the 20th century into the 21st century, we needed a blueprint. It’s a quality of life issue and ITS will not eliminate traffic jams, but it will keep drivers informed. It can reduce travel time by 40 hours a year. What is a 40-hour work week worth?”

According to the Financial News and Daily Record, those who attended Wednesday’s announcement at the Osborn Center were given rides in a Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII)-equipped van. An onboard computer programmed to integrate with a computer installed in a traffic signal and other street signs alerts the driver when the light is changing and of other roadway hazards or potential problems, the paper said.

Pete Vega, an ITS engineer with the State Department of Transportation, told the newspaper all vehicle manufacturers will be required to install the VII system, starting with the 2008 models, warning drivers about potential hazards such as traffic jams, road closures and even potholes that are hundreds of yards down the road.

“In an ideal scenario, a car half a mile up the road would hit a pothole. That car tells the road, which tells you about the pothole,” Sheffield told the paper. “Imagine how far the possibilities can go.”

The possibilities extend to restaurants, hotels and other services, Vega added, explaining that drivers could use the system to quickly locate the closest McDonald’s or Holiday Inn. Those companies would “sponsor” the system, Vega told the paper, and in return, they would be the first option.

The Financial News and Daily Record reported Vega as saying the DOT plans to build a regional transportation management center that would incorporate all of the agencies involved in the local ITS coalition.

“Our overall goal is to provide the best transportation system in the nation,” Vega told the paper.

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