Commission on the Future of Transportation in Virginia
December 9, 1999, Blacksburg
Chairman Robinson observed that one factor contributing to Virginia's transportation problems may be a lack of continuity in transportation policy and that one way to deal with this lack of continuity might be to give the legislature a greater and more direct role in transportation policy-making.
ITS TechnologyRepresentatives of three universities (the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and Virginia Tech) briefed the commission on the contribution that intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technology could make to transportation capacity, safety, and convenience, and the efforts of the three universities' ITS consortium to put these technologies to use "in the real world" (rather than just in the laboratory) for the benefit of the motoring public, the state economy, and the taxpayers of Virginia. Among the technological improvements discussed were:
Highway congestion, it was pointed out, is robbing Virginians of their productivity and eroding their quality of life. As adding additional highway lanes becomes an ever more costly and ever more unrealistic way of attempting to deal with this congestion, ITS technology can make a major impact on reducing congestion and increasing capacity without constructing additional lane-miles of road. The cost to the taxpayer can be minimized through carefully structured public-private partnerships between the Commonwealth (primarily but not exclusively VDOT) and telecommunications providers and travel-oriented businesses.
- Use of sensors to detect fog and other adverse weather conditions;
- Use of roadside cameras to monitor real-time traffic flow and detect vehicle breakdowns and other highway incidents;
- Use of the data gathered by sensors and cameras to determine the need to close lanes, reduce speed limits, reroute traffic, or summon fire, police or other emergency services;
- Use of overhead sensors to adjust traffic signals and "prioritize" traffic to afford speedier access of emergency vehicles to highway incident locations;
- Use of variable message signs, radio alert messages, and in-vehicle internet access terminals to transmit real-time warnings, congestion advice, and general travel information to drivers on the highway; and
- Use of data gathered over time to general computer models of traffic flows to assist in highway design and construction and to schedule highway maintenance.
Other SuggestionsOther speakers urged the commission to be aware of the contribution that mass transit can make to reducing traffic congestion, particularly in densely settled areas, and the need to expanded state funding of mass transit programs to relieve fiscally stressed local governments. The meeting concluded with a discussion of the desirability of moving more long-distance freight traffic by rail, rather than by highway, and reducing delays encountered by truckers at weigh stations by using weigh-in-motion technology wherever possible.
The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold