Public Release: 

Engineers Road Test System For Reducing Highway Construction Delays

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati -- Orange barrels and cones leave many drivers seeing red, but a new, portable computer monitoring system designed at the University of Cincinnati might make the highway construction season a bit more bearable.

Prahlad Pant, professor of civil engineering, and a team of UC researchers are testing a series of sensors and monitors along Interstate 71 north of Cincinnati to see if they can accurately predict changes in traffic flow and traffic delays in real time.

The goal is to warn drivers about long delays before they reach a construction zone, giving them time to exit an interstate and use an alternate route.

The sensors are set on towers 17-25 feet high. They can record the number of vehicles on the road, their speed, and how long they remain in one spot. In short, the sensors can detect the difference between smoothly moving traffic and a bumper-to-bumper mess.

However, it takes a series of sensors to make an accurate prediction. So information from five to seven monitoring stations will be transmitted to a central computer for processing. In seconds, the prediction would be relayed to an electronic message board along the highway.

Unlike current signs which simply warn of potential delays, the UC system would give drivers an up- to-the-minute estimate of the actual delays. "The current system makes drivers mad," explained Pant. "And that's when you get into a lot of accidents, because drivers begin to lose their patience."

The ultimate goal of the research is reduced congestion which nearly always means an increase in highway safety, not only for drivers and their passengers, but for the workers in the construction zones as well. The project is funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

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