New York opens traffic management nerve center

December 01, 2004 |

A$50 million high-tech traffic management command post completed this fall in Hawthorne, N.Y., is expected to help Empire State transportation officials, emergency management personnel, and state police better manage recurring traffic congestion and identify and respond to traffic incidents, which is costing the state $6.2 billion a year.

Designed by DeWolff Partnership Architects, Rochester, N.Y., with the Losco Group, White Plains, N.Y., as general contractor, the traditional brick and standing-seam metal roof exterior of the Hudson Valley Transportation Management Center belies the space-age, NASA-like control center found within. The HVTMC integrates and manages computerized electronic "intelligent transportation system" (ITS) infrastructure used by New York Department of Transportation's Region 8, which includes seven counties just north of New York City. Similar facilities are in operation in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City. The facility also houses a separate 911 call and dispatch center, state emergency management center, and the emergency operations center for Westchester County. An existing state police barracks adjacent to the management center also has been renovated.

Designed to GSA Level 4 security standards, protection for the nerve center is provided using a system of gates, card access, video surveillance, and other measures.

The intelligence behind ITS

ITS refers to the collective use of hardware, software, and transportation management personnel to manage traffic. The information infrastructure is comprised of a number of technologies, including information processing, communications, control equipment, and electronics.

The traffic management center collects and disseminates real-time traffic information, making it the critical link between transportation agencies, public safety agencies, media entities, and the traveling public. It also is the command center for incident response to traffic conditions that impact traffic flow in throughout the Hudson Valley.

The facility centralizes roadway video surveillance and acts as a central dissemination point for transportation information. Travel condition information is collected, processed, and disseminated to allow transportation managers and the public to make appropriate decisions. Travel conditions, congestion management decisions, and incident-related information are displayed as real-time traffic speed, traffic incident, and lane closure maps in the traffic management command center.

The Internet, radio, and electronic message boards on highways are used to disseminate the roadway and weather information. More-detailed logistical support and temporary traffic control measures are available for public safety providers.

Advanced systems integrator and high-tech defense contractor Northrop Grumman is responsible for the heavy-duty data integration, which enables the ITS software to coordinate technology, read sensor data, assimilate incoming cellular 911 call information, and suggest responses regarding diversion routing, CCTV camera placement, and electronic message signs.

The automated transportation management system software customized for this facility, coupled with automatic vehicle locators, will allow dispatchers to send the closest available unit to an incident scene and track progress and status. A computer-aided dispatch system, called the Hudson Valley Communications Project, connects 10 emergency dispatch points in the Hudson Valley via existing wide-area network connections, providing a roadmap for coordination through color-coordinated, electronic overlaid CAD drawings.

The traffic management center tailors information to help utilities and outside contractors use the system. The facility hosts emergency vehicle-to-vehicle messaging in real-time chat rooms and provides mobile e-mail.

The computer systems in the center are designed to manage data from automated collision notification systems embedded in automobiles. These systems can help save lives by automatically calculating and communicating the severity and location of a crash directly to a center.

It includes an in-vehicle module that automatically senses and characterizes a crash and transmits information about the crash. At the center, a computer console displays a detailed roadmap showing the crash location and other data, including the change in velocity experienced by the vehicle during the impact; whether the crash was frontal, side, or rear impact; whether rollover occurred; the make, model and year of the vehicle; and the probable occupants of the vehicle.

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