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6/8/2009 2:30:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

States Creating ‘Smart Road’ Projects with Stimulus Funds to Reduce Traffic

By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the June 8 print edition of Transport Topics.

Instead of buying only asphalt and steel, several states will spend federal stimulus dollars on “smart road” projects that use information technology to reduce congestion, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Although traditional road and bridge construction projects are key elements of improving the nation’s highways,” states can go beyond new construction with “alternatives that enhance capacity and performance of existing infrastructure,” the NCSL report said.

Colorado, for instance, plans to spend some of its stimulus dollars on high-tech weather alert systems along Interstate 70 where snow and ice can imperil winter truck traffic through the Rocky Mountains.

Ohio will spend $15 million in the Cleveland and Akron areas to buy such equipment as traffic cameras, electronic message boards and weather advisory radios.

Such investments are known as ITS or intelligent transportation systems.

The NCSL report makes the case that ITS spending on such items as high-occupancy vehicle lanes and electronic tolling improves transportation flow, mitigates congestion and reduces fuel consumption and emissions.

The biggest “smart road” project to date using stimulus dollars may be in Pennsylvania, according to Stateline.org, a news service operated by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In Pennsylvania, $74 million in stimulus funds is earmarked for ITS purchases along 72 miles of highway in the Philadelphia area.

Pennsylvania transportation officials said they hope to reduce traffic delays and the resulting pollution from idling by adding 59 closed-circuit video cameras and 39 electronic traffic signs to the roads.

The new cameras and signs will connect to the state’s traffic control center in King of Prussia, a suburb of Philadelphia. The center already has 175 cameras feeding into its system to help control traffic flow on the highways.

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