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Intelligent highways here and abroad.

AS the economic, environmental, and safety concerns related to the world's roadways have grown, transportation officials have sought alternatives to simply building more miles of traditional roadway. Instead, they are investigating solutions that use new technologies to bring transportation systems into the 21st century. These technologies collectively comprise Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS). IVHS is already being implemented throughout the United States and Europe and promises benefits including reduction of traffic congestion and pollution, and increased transportation efficiency and safety.

Here, IVHS development has been accelerated by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, signed in 1991. The act authorized $660 million in federal funding for IVHS development efforts and trial programs over six years, providing further impetus to reengineer the nation's transportation infrastructure over the next decade.

One initial application of IVHS technology is the development and installation of advanced Electronic Toll and Traffic Management (ETTM) systems. Electronic toll collection integrates radio frequency identification, highway sensors, optical character recognition, fiber optic networking, video monitoring, and computer accounting systems. These technologies let roadway managers electronically collect tolls and tunnel and bridge fees, while eliminating the need for drivers to pay with cash, scrip, or tokens.

By electronically identifying and classifying vehicles at high speed, deducting tolls from prepaid user accounts, and automatically identifying violators via video image capture, electronic toll collection allows traffic to pass unimpeded across the roadways, minimizing congestion and pollution. In addition, sophisticated accounting applications developed as part of these systems are enabling bridge, tunnel, and road operators to reduce operating and accounting costs, while providing enhanced accountability and auditing capabilities.

IVHS in the Real World

Each day, more than 225,000 vehicles use California's eight-lane Riverside Freeway (SR-91), making this highway one of the most heavily congested traffic corridors in the country and forcing some commuters to leave their homes as early as 4 a.m. However, thanks to an ETTM system provided by MFS Network Technologies, Inc. (Omaha, Nebraska), SR-91 will link Orange and Riverside counties near Los Angeles with one of the world's first "smart highways," and provide a solution to this traffic congestion.

The $126-million SR-91 Express Lanes project, scheduled for completion in 1995, will represent one of the most advanced examples of IVHS in the world. The highway will use various advanced technologies and systems to control traffic, electronically collect tolls, and enforce traffic laws, all while improving traffic flow. As a result, SR-91 will be safer to travel on, move traffic more efficiently, decrease air pollution, increase energy efficiency, and enhance productivity.

The project also represents the first privately financed and operated toll road to be built in this country in more than 50 years. SR-91 is being developed by the California Private Transportation Company (CPTC), which holds a 35-year Build-Transfer-Operate franchise from the State Department of Transportation, awarded under innovative public/private infrastructure legislation passed by the California Legislature in 1989. This unique approach to highway financing and operation is expected to save California taxpayers $120 million in law enforcement and operating costs.

The ETTM system will allow tolls to be collected at full highway speeds without toll booths. The system can automatically register tolls for motor vehicles traveling well over 100 mph with 99.9 percent accuracy, and does not require motorists to stop or even slow down.

Central to the system is an advanced Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) subsystem developed jointly by MFS and Texas Instruments, Inc. (Austin, Texas), based on the Texas Instruments Registration and Identification System (TIRIS). The AVI system automatically collects data from a battery-operated identification tag, about the size of a credit card, that can be mounted to the back of a rearview mirror or placed on the dashboard of motorists' vehicles. The transponder tag contains electronically encoded information, such as tag identification data. The AVI system uses advanced radio frequency identification technology to "read" the transponder tag via an AVI antenna mounted above the roadway. Data collected from the transponder is automatically processed by a host computer, and a driver's pre-paid account is immediately debited.

Other subsystems that make up SR-91's ETTM include:

* A Traffic Management Subsystem for managing traffic flow, based on inroad detectors placed every quarter mile along the highway, which sense traffic volume and conditions and relay key data to a control center.

* A Video Observation Subsystem that provides real-time video monitoring of the entire highway, and transmits high-speed video of potential problem areas to a central traffic control center, letting managers re-route traffic or dispatch emergency vehicles.

* A Violation Detection and Enforcement Subsystem that integrates video and optical character recognition technology to capture vehicle images and read license plates on moving cars. Digitized video frame images of violator vehicles and their plates, plus associated data such as date and time stamps, are collected, stored, and forwarded to service agencies for processing.

* Variable Message Signs located before the entrance of the toll lanes that will advise motorists of variable tolls, weather, and traffic conditions.

* A System Control Center that utilizes integrated computing systems for management of revenue, traffic, maintenance, operations, and customer service.

* An Imbedded Fiber Optic Communications Network that provides high-speed backbone communications and transmission links between all video, voice, and data subsystems.

* A Mobile Communications Subsystem that connects SR-91 operations directly to the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Transportation.

Together, these subsystems, the first to operate to standards defined by the State of California, will increase efficiency, reduce pollution, and provide motorists with an alternative to SR-91's congested existing lanes. For example, highway managers will use the ETTM system to vary user fees on the toll road and keep traffic flowing freely at peak commuter hours. When sensors and video cameras along the roadway detect impending traffic jams, tolls can be adjusted to maintain traffic flow. Toll incentives can be provided to encourage car pooling, and multi-passenger occupancy can be verified through specially coded AVI tags and video identification techniques. Cars without AVI tags can be automatically identified, and information recorded instantaneously through video image capture.

Equally important, SR-91 is being financed through a public/private partnership, which makes design and construction of the highway possible without direct tax funding. A combination of private funding and equity investment for the project is being provided by partners including Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc., Cofiroute Corporation, Granite Construction Company, and Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CIGNA). All capital and operating costs, including policing and road maintenance, will be paid for by users, and revenues generated in excess of investor rates of return fixed under the franchise agreement will be used to retire project debt or returned to the California Highway Fund.

IVHS on The Autobahn

The Bundesministerium fur Verkehr (BMV), Germany's Federal Ministry of Transportation, has selected MFS Network to participate in a trial of IVHS on the Autobahn, Germany's famous high-speed highway system, as part of BMV's IVHS evaluation program. The company was among ten selected from a field of 125 applicants for the field tests. MFS has successfully completed installation of an Electronic Toll and Traffic Management system on a 500-meter segment of Autobahn 555, between Bonn North and Wesseling. Field testing of the system was scheduled to start in June and continue for one year. The purpose of the trials is to evaluate the feasibility of using ETTM systems on the Autobahn. The BMV intends to choose one or more of the trial participants to develop and install a national ETTM system by the year 2000.

Because cars operate at such high speeds on the Autobahn, the BMV's trial specifications are especially demanding. These specifications require that all ETTM systems in the field trials be able to charge tolls based on distance traveled, automatically identify different types of vehicles, and change toll rates according to the time of day. And, they must accomplish all of these requirements on a highway where the average speed of motor vehicles exceeds 160 kph.

MFS' ETTM system can register tolls for vehicles traveling over 275 kph, and can identify vehicles with only 60 cm separating their transponder tags. It also has the capacity to register tolls for 6000 vehicles per hour on a three-lane highway.

The company is expected to participate in similar ETTM trials in the U.K., which are scheduled to begin later this year.
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Publication:Public Works
Date:Sep 1, 1994
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