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Paving the way for technology

Jim Hanson | 14 Mar 2017 | Comments

The challenge: tackling aging transportation systems, increased commuter and commercial traffic, and population growth and development.

As professional engineers, we have a responsibility to help meet this challenge by assisting clients and communities in designing, managing, and operating the roadways of tomorrow, today. That means helping agencies make a monumental shift from relying only on hard capital assets to improve safety and mobility to embracing innovation and technology.

The traditional transportation department charge to effectively build, maintain, and operate highways and their associated infrastructure remains unchanged. But it should be augmented by the integration of innovation and technology solutions for reducing deadly accidents, alleviating traffic delays, and communicating road conditions to travelers.

In many states, intelligent transportation systems are already supporting traffic signals, lane controls, variable message signs, and video monitoring of traffic and highways. Through planned improvements in analytics and integration, existing systems can be enhanced and contribute to more efficient roadway operations. This innovation will help increase the level of critical information that can be disseminated to roadway users, and help manage and operate transportation systems more effectively.

The simple reality is that we cannot build our way out of congestion. The need for a transformation in transportation is revving up in states across the country, and Colorado is among them. Colorado Department of Transportation has taken a bold step to effect change and transform its aging transportation system by embracing technology. Their goal is to be one of the most technologically advanced transportation systems in the nation.

In launching the RoadX Program, CDOT made a commitment to aggressive implementation of new transportation technology within the next 10 years. In support of their aggressive timetable, CDOT took a unique approach to selecting consultants to help advise and lead idea generation. Instead of selecting a single consultant, CDOT selected three (Atkins being one), and they share equal responsibility of solidifying partnerships and entrepreneurial relationships. CDOT’s approach is paying off, with leaders from public organizations and private industry all working together, bringing the brightest innovators to the table from Colorado, across the nation, and around the world.

CDOT is definitely sending a signal that the state means business as it pledges to improve safety for all who use its roadways. They launched a RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge that demonstrates the kind of out-of-thebox thinking that takes public involvement to another level. The challenge will award a total of $500,000 to innovators who have the best ideas to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in Colorado. And in an effort to encourage the best and brightest ideas, CDOT held a networking event with its leadership, industry partners, and innovators to facilitate connections between the individuals, businesses, and agencies that are considering submitting ideas. This emphasis on collaboration at every turn is a differentiator for CDOT, and it is also an approach other transportation agencies can emulate to encourage stakeholder engagement.

Further integration of technology and transportation is simply inevitable. Helping to transform and deliver more efficient, agile, and flexible transportation systems to communities should drive us to take action. This is the type of opportunity to make a difference that led many of us to pursue the engineering profession in the first place.

This article was originally published in the March/April edition of PE Magazine.