The Iowa Department of Transportation unveiled its new, high-tech transportation management system, tripGuidet, recently in Des Moines.
The Iowa DOT, like many governments around the country, is turning to innovative solutions using networks of computers, electronics and communications systems, collectively known as intelligent transportation systems (ITS), to manage traffic flow and inform travelers of problems. Although the system can’t control what happens on the roadways, it can detect and manage various traffic situations.
TripGuide is the Des Moines metro area’s intelligent transportation system. The system covers nearly 62 miles of roadway. It encompasses I-35/80/235, U.S. 65/69 and Iowa 5.
Using strategically placed closed circuit television cameras and side-firing radar traffic detection sensors, traffic management professionals will be able to see traffic incidents when they occur, take appropriate action and get traffic moving again quickly.
Visitors to the www.i235.com Web site will be able to view near real-time camera images and a color-coded traffic flow map allowing them to make informed decisions on the best route of travel.
There are a wide variety of tools under tripGuide’s umbrella of protection. Services include 43 new closed-circuit television cameras and connections to several existing city-owned cameras. Still images will be available to the public at www.i235.com.
Sixty-eight new traffic detection sensors have also been installed in the area to measure vehicle presence, volume, occupancy and speed in all four to six lanes of traffic. The devices use wireless technology to deliver data to a central computer system. From there it is translated into the color-coded traffic flow map available to the public via the Internet at www.i235.com.
Other tools associated with tripGuide are permanent and portable dynamic message signs to alert travelers of upcoming traffic conditions and the existing Highway Helper program and 511 Traveler Info service.
An intricate communications system and computer network, the backbone of tripGuide, ties these tools together allowing the data and images to flow freely from and to the various technologies. The complex network uses a combination of new and existing communication resources, including wireless technologies and fiber optics.
The total cost to design and implement tripGuide is estimated at $3.8 million, with 80 percent of funding coming from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). A portion of Iowa’s Primary Road Fund is being used to match the federal dollars. CMAQ funding is solely dedicated to projects that maintain Iowa’s good air quality.
Although tripGuide was designed for use in the Des Moines metro area, lessons learned from this project may be transferred to other major urban reconstruction projects like those being planned for Sioux City and Council Bluffs.