A program called Connected Corridors wants to use technology to solve California’s traffic problems. It’s one of the first wide-scale, Caltrans-led attempts at using data, software and traffic patterns to alleviate congestion through travel corridors.
“This is pretty simple in concept. It’s really trying to get multiple cities and counties and organizations like Caltrans to work together so that when a traffic incident occurs, traffic can be rerouted in the best way possible,” Connected Corridors Program Manager Joe Butler explained to Techwire.
The pilot program focuses on a 10-mile stretch along Interstate 210 in Southern California, through Pasadena and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County. Within that space, more than 10 stakeholders, such as LA Metro, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, local governments and transit agencies, are working together to find an integrated approach — and considering innovative transportation systems — in order to ease congestion and improve efficiency
The connected corridor, in this context, refers to the entire traffic system: the highway, roads surrounding the area, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
“All the people are going to be communicating, but all the systems are going to be communicating as well,” said Lisa Hammon, communications specialist for UC Berkeley’s Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH). “So it’s run as a corridor not as individual entities doing their own thing, which is what is happening in most places.”
The Connected Corridors program is currently looking for vendors to pilot management software. Several off-the-shelf solutions will be piloted before a vendor is selected, Butler said. The software is meant to connect data across multiple platforms, taking information in from traffic algorithms and first responder information, which would enable Caltrans to adjust traffic patterns in real time by adjusting changeable message signs, metering onramps and traffic lights.
Although the 10-mile stretch of highway for the testing is a limited section, the corridor includes the arterial roadways around it, which will be used to redirect traffic around the incident.
“Our goal is to make this as transparent and easy for the driver as possible,” Butler said.
Caltrans restructured its Division of Traffic Operations for District 7, which includes Los Angeles and the I-210 freeway, in order to create the pilot program. If the program is successful, it will be extended to the entire state — with extensions being added as early as 2018. Extending the program could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create more reliable travel times.
In 2015, District 7 was allotted $24.8 million from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program Caltrans fund to upgrade more than 20 miles of fiber optics, and replace closed-circuit cameras and changeable message signs — all elements that will affect traffic flow. Several months later, the LA Metro Board approved funds to improve arterial streets and install Bluetooth detectors.
The Federal Highway Administration also contributed nearly $2.6 million for Integrated Corridor Management grants, and a portion of California's $200,000 grant will be put toward the Connected Corridors program. A total cost for the project has not been estimated because the project shares funds with arterial road management programs.
Caltrans began a similar program with the city of Los Angeles on Interstate 10 in the 1990s, but multijurisdictional partnerships have been encouraged after its failure.
Correction: The original version of this article discussed a 10-mile section along the I-120. The story has been updated to reflect the correct designation of the highway.