2 ADOT highway safety efforts win national honors

Arizona Department of Transportation efforts to improve safety on a stretch of westbound US 60 in Tempe and a system that reduces the risk from wrong-way drivers have been honored by a national organization dedicated to the management and operation of state highways.

Lane adjustments along US 60 won the state national honors for highway safety. (Photo/ADOT)

The National Operations Center of Excellence is presenting its Best Transportation Systems Management and Operations Project Award (Creative Solution) to ADOT for lane adjustments and new signs that have improved traffic conditions and reduced minor, rear-end crashes on westbound US 60 approaching Interstate 10.

Runner-up for Best Transportation Systems Management and Operations Project (Creative Solution) is ADOT’s pilot system using technology to reduce the risk from wrong-way drivers on 15 miles of Interstate 17 in Phoenix.

“Arizonans’ safety will always be our No. 1 priority,” Gov. Doug Ducey stated in a release. “ADOT’s efforts to leverage technology and develop innovative solutions are bringing about real, measurable improvements to roadway safety.”

On westbound US 60, a July 2018 project that changed lane striping to allow a second left lane to eastbound I-10, complemented by new signs, has improved overall traffic flow in the freeway’s left lanes. Compared to the five years before this improvement, crashes in those lanes have declined by 90 percent during afternoon peak hours, ADOT officials stated.

ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division partnered with the city of Tempe and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to study and implement the US 60 safety measures.

The runner-up award for the I-17 wrong-way pilot system also honored stationing an AZDPS trooper at ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center in Phoenix as part of a comprehensive response designed to help law enforcement respond faster to wrong-way incidents than relying on 911 calls from other motorists.

Since it went into operation in January 2018, this system, using thermal cameras to immediately alert ADOT and AZDPS, has detected more than 40 wrong-way vehicles, most of which turned around on ramps without entering the freeway, according to an ADOT release.

The system uses “decision-support software to quickly alert other drivers to the danger through overhead message boards and ramp meter lights that hold on red to warn drivers not to enter the freeway. On off-ramps, self-illuminated wrong-way signs with flashing red LEDs attempt to get the attention of wrong-way drivers, most of whom are impaired,” according to the release.

Earlier this year, the I-17 system won a Government Innovation Award from an information technology industry magazine.

“It takes a creative, passionate and dedicated team to develop and deliver improvements like these that make a significant difference for travelers,” stated Brent Cain, who leads ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division. “Their work, in coordination with partner agencies, aligns with ADOT’s goals of improving safety and mobility throughout Arizona.”

ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division includes a variety of traffic safety and operational programs, including roadway-safety improvements, traffic-signal systems, pavement conditions and crash response, according to the release. It also includes technology used to manage congestion, such overhead message boards and closed-circuit cameras operated from the Traffic Operations Center.

“Innovative approaches that better manage our infrastructure and incorporate cutting-edge technology are why we reorganized in 2015 to create a Transportation Systems Management and Operations division,” ADOT Director John Halikowski stated.

“At the heart of this is a commitment to safety and to creating the most reliable transportation system in the nation.”

The National Operations Center of Excellence is a partnership of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Institute for Transportation Engineers and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, with support from the Federal Highway Administration.

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