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27 Sep 2016
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Co-authored by Joey Paskey and Brad Slocum
Knowing the road ahead has many advantages for drivers. Knowing that the lane you’re in is blocked two miles ahead allows you to avoid last minute merging that would only compound the delay. Knowing you’re approaching traffic congestion, and reducing your speed to minimize stop-and-go traffic, helps everyone get home a bit sooner. And, while driving in an unfamiliar city, getting a bit of extra guidance when a road is under construction can help you navigate like a pro—and with less anxiety.
In very few areas is the ability “to see what lies ahead” needed more than in Las Vegas, Nevada, which sees approximately 40 million visitors each year. In addition, Project Neon, the largest public works project in Nevada’s history, is just kicking off with expected completion in 2019. Project Neon tackles the challenge of improving the 3.7-mile stretch of I-15 between Sahara Avenue and the “Spaghetti Bowl,” which is the busiest stretch of roadway in Nevada, traveled by 300,000 vehicles daily. With 2,500 lane changes an hour, this corridor sees an average of three accidents per day.
Atkins is managing all design and engineering services for Project Neon, including the Active Traffic Management System (ATM). One of the Nevada Department of Transportation’s (NDOT) priorities is to increase safety and driver awareness—and the ATM system is key.
Like most things in Vegas, everything is bigger and brighter. And while we’ve designed state-of-the-art ATM systems across the country, the Project Neon system is more robust than any other. Oversized displays offer lane-specific, real-time messaging and increased functionality allow a myriad of traffic management system solutions to be integrated.
The ATM system includes a total of 52 high-definition, full-color digital signs with seamless displays across all lanes—installed every half-mile along the freeway to streamline traffic through this busy area. Not only was a lot of emphasis placed on the visibility of the signs, but also providing timely and concise information to drivers with minimal distraction by carefully adhering to line-of-sight and distance specifications. And to aid travelers during Project Neon construction, there will be an early roll-out of 12 signs to direct traffic and improve safety and awareness of current road conditions.
Potential ATM displays that better inform travelers of road conditions
The signs will have the capability to dynamically close and open lanes, encourage merging to desired lanes, set speed limits to slow or speed traffic (speed harmonization), dedicate lanes for HOV, and provide general guidance to motorists. Traffic Management Center (TMC) staff will control the signs and adjust messages based on real-time information they receive about roadway conditions through radar/microwave detection and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. And as the roadways continue to get more intelligent with connected and self-driving vehicles, the versatile nature of this system has the potential to be integrated with future smart infrastructure developments.
No matter where you may travel, reliability, efficiency, and safety on the road is key to an enjoyable journey. It’s an exciting experience to help NDOT enhance their capability to keep their roads flowing smoothly and safely. We hope that this time, what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas, but rather, becomes a best practice for other highly congested corridors across the nation—helping motorists get a better view of the road ahead.
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