DPS traffic operations center cuts down on time taken to clear crashes

The average time taken to clear crash sites on Maricopa County freeways has been reduced by nearly an hour over the past year, even as the region experiences more crashes.

The dramatic reduction in clearance times is attributed to a decision one year ago to locate Department of Public Safety troopers at the Arizona Department of Transportation Traffic Operations Center.

An analysis of the results from the first year of the program (nine months of data) will be presented during a joint news conference at 10 a.m. Jan. 19, at the ADOT Traffic Operations Center, 2302 W. Durango St., Phoenix, according to a press release.

Placing DPS troopers at the TOC began in October 2014, the result of a collaborative effort among ADOT, DPS, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Maricopa Association of Governments. MAG and ADOT are jointly funding a three-year pilot project to locate troopers at the TOC.

The TOC uses information from a variety of sources to monitor traffic flow, including more than 200 traffic cameras along the freeway system.

“Despite a 23 percent increase in the number of freeway crashes, the time to clear crashes of all severities was reduced between 48 and 65 percent,” stated DPS Director Frank Milstead, in the release. “While clearing severe crashes took longer than less serious incidents, they were also cleared more quickly than the year before. On average, the time taken to clear all freeway lanes at crash sites has been reduced by nearly an hour.”

ADOT Director John Halikowski says the success is a result of increased efficiency.

“The DPS troopers at the TOC have direct communication with troopers in the field. They can jointly determine the resources needed at a specific crash scene,” Mr. Halikowski stated in the release. “This prevents the need for ADOT operators to relay the information to DPS. This means we can mobilize field officers, fire-rescue, ambulances, the appropriate class of tow truck and other resources more quickly. Clearing crash scenes more quickly reduces the risk of secondary crashes, furthering our important goal of public safety.”

MAG Chair Jim Lane, mayor of Scottsdale, says the reduction in traffic delay not only saves lives but saves money in terms of potential lost productivity.

Jim Lane

Jim Lane

“MAG estimates that the region has saved $165 million in lost productivity over the first year of the pilot project,” stated Mayor Lane in the release. “These findings provide an early validation of our decision to invest in this program. We will continue to evaluate the pilot program for the next two years to ensure accountability.”

Youngtown Mayor Michael LeVault, MAG economic development committee chair and past MAG chair, notes that the benefits extend to traffic beyond the freeway system.

“The longer traffic is delayed on the freeway, the more local backups we have as vehicles divert onto city streets,” stated Mayor LeVault in the release. “Improving clearance times has a positive impact for all drivers in the region. These findings are very encouraging.”

FHWA Division Administrator Karla Petty says the findings will be shared with other transportation agencies.

“When we launched this program, we noted that locating public safety officers in traffic centers has been identified as a best practice across the country. These initial numbers appear to validate this practice as a means to increase efficiency and enhance safety, and we will continue to share these results as the pilot program continues,” she stated in the release.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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