By Logan Dredske
The Orlando area has received a grant of close to $12 million to utilize innovative transportation system technologies to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists and to ease congestion. The grant was awarded by the Federal Highway Administration’s “Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment” program, which seeks ideal deployment sites for large-scale installation and operation of advanced transportation technologies. The program’s goals are to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment. This year, the grant will be funding 10 projects across the U.S., with Orlando having received the most funding.
According to Smart Growth America’s 2016 release of Dangerous by Design, the Orlando area ranks as the third most dangerous area for pedestrians in the nation. In fact, eight of the top ten most dangerous metro areas are in Florida.
The project will be led by FDOT, MetroPlan Orlando, and the University of Central Florida. The technologies will be tested around UCF’s main campus. The goals of the project are to analyze the technology’s impact on pedestrian safety and congestion, make the project “portable” so that it can be adopted in other locations, and to create implementation recommendations.
The project will include four major technologies: PedSafe, GreenWay, SmartCommunity, and SunStore.
- PedSafe will digitally connect vehicles, people, and traffic lights to develop a pedestrian and bicycle collision-avoidance system. Drivers of vehicles will be alerted when there is a pedestrian or cyclist in the area. Traffic signals will be aware of pedestrians crossing the road and ensure they have enough time to cross.
- GreenWay will use sensors and new traffic signal technology to help the transportation system quickly adapt to real-time traffic conditions. This will make travel times more consistent and help reduce congestion. Projects in this program include: installing adaptive traffic signal controls that adjust the timing of red, yellow, and green lights to respond to changing traffic patterns; activating advanced traffic light timing plans to clear intersections near railroad tracks before trains arrive; and providing parking availability information to drivers in a garage to reduce the amount of time it takes to find a spot.
- SmartCommunity will combine information from many different transportation options into one place so people have a one-stop shop to plan their trips. This includes travel time information for driving, riding the bus, taking the train, and using rideshare or car share.
- SunStore will be the Florida Department of Transportation’s central data storage for all the transportation system management and operations information. Having a wide range of technology out on the roads means that there will be an endless stream of data to manage. SunStore will connect and integrate many data sources, so FDOT can make the information available to universities, research institutions, and businesses to encourage innovation.
The grant program began in 2016 and is authorized through 2020. Most of the projects funded by the grant rely on additional funds to support their efforts. Past examples of projects have included San Francisco Smart City and Pittsburgh SmartPGH.
Logan Dredske is a Project Assistant at SSTI.