Making Work Zones Smarter and Safer through the Use of Additional Data
INRIX and their partner, Hill & Smith Inc., have teamed up to improve operations around work zones. Hill & Smith Inc. is an industry leading manufacturer of a wide range of transportation safety products and is dedicated to advancing Work Zone Safety, ITS, & Roadside Safety nationwide.
As noted in a recent study by Pew Trust Research, work zone crashes and fatalities have spiked in some states during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the drop in traffic, alarming transportation and highway safety officials . Much of this has been attributed to significant increases in traffic speeds, even in work zones. In addition to safety issues, work zones often create significant congestion, often in rural areas where there is typically little or no traffic issues or traveler information infrastructure. This also makes the issue of letting the driving public know about construction related delays more challenging for agencies.
In addition to safety issues, construction zones often create significant congestion, sometimes during peak periods. Having a bird’s eye view on the surrounding roadway network can allow an agency to better manage not only the work zone itself but also any related traffic impacts. As noted in FHWA’s Work Zone Operations Best Practices Guidebook, work zone best practices “emphasize strategies to provide detailed project information to the public, including about the type of work being completed, planned duration, expected delay, and strategies to avoid delay. These best practices emphasize the provision of accurate, up-to-date work zone information to road users in a sufficient time to help them make informed travel decisions.”
Recently Hill & Smith Inc. has had great success using this approach in North Carolina where NCDOT recognized the value of having additional insight around their work zones using INRIX’s real-time probe data feed. Specifically, Hill & Smith Inc. has recently won (6) new projects using the INRIX data feed as a value-added service. An example of this is shown below for the I-40 Smart Work Zone project in Davie County, North Carolina. In this example, Hill & Smith Inc. was able to populate travel times using INRIX’s real-time data feed for an alternate route without deploying any additional field equipment. This not only saves NCDOT money, but it also provides much greater flexibility in addressing changes in the maintenance of traffic that typically occur throughout the life of construction project. This additional feature provided a reduction in traffic volumes through the I-40 corridor which in turn, creates a much safer work zone environment for both the traveling public and the work zone personnel. In addition to the safer work zone, this also provides a reduction in user delays thus creating a more environmentally friendly & environmentally responsible project. Carolina Traffic served as the local on-site support and maintenance of the Smart Work Zone. “We have been able to add value for our customers by providing traffic data on the alternate route where devices were not specified. This data helps the contractors and the State get a full understanding of how construction activities have affected the entire corridor and not just the road with the lane closure. Consequently, this information allows better planning of detour routes and construction activities to mitigate impact on traffic,” Chris Mahar, Vice President of Carolina Traffic.
INRIX and Hill & Smith Inc. continue to look for new ways of improving roadway safety in and around work zones and are coordinating with FHWA’s Work Zone Data Initiative (WZDI).