Keeping work zones safe for drivers, workers

ADOT, regional partners earn federal Smart Work Zones grant

PHOENIX – Ongoing efforts to create safe highway and street work zones for drivers, construction crews and maintenance workers have received an important boost – the awarding of a federal grant to a coalition of transportation agencies in the Phoenix region.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) were recently awarded a $200,000 grant to collaborate on providing consistent information about the more than 14,000 work zones set up every year throughout the Maricopa County area.

The agencies are focusing on the use of “Smart Work Zone” technologies, including message signs, designed to warn and guide drivers as they approach and travel into work zones. The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will improve the listing of work zones across jurisdictions into ADOT’s AZ511 traveler information system. Motorists can use the system to check where roadway construction is happening and prepare for delays or plan the use of alternate routes. Smart Work Zone technologies also will help connected and automated vehicles navigate work zones safely.

“Our top goal is to improve safety and mobility by reducing crashes that can happen when traffic is slowed or stopped in work zones,” said ADOT Operations and Traffic Safety Engineer Adam Carreon. “Safety is improved when drivers and autonomous vehicles are aware of work zones. Motorists can plan ahead to slow down, merge safely or use a convenient alternate route. Our coalition is poised to lead the nation in this arena.”

Arizona has been a pioneer for implementing Smart Work Zone technologies. The Arizona efforts were recently recognized by the National Operations Center of Excellence, which selected the partnering agencies for its Runner-Up Award in the Work Zones Under Traffic Systems Management and Operations category.

“Arizona is currently a hotspot for piloting emerging transportation technologies,” said MAG Director of Transportation Technologies and Services Vladimir Livshits. “MAG is working in close collaboration with ADOT and MCDOT on a number of technological initiatives. Smart work zone technologies are one of the most important areas. Providing timely information about dynamic conditions on roads such as construction events is important to roadway operators, drivers and driverless cars.”

ADOT, MAG and MCDOT are members of AZTech, a regional traffic management partnership that guides the application of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies to help manage traffic in the greater Phoenix area. Programs being advanced include Smart Work Zones as a way to provide alternate routes for drivers when work zone routes exceed an established delay threshold or the time it would take to travel another route.

“The partnership and collaboration in the region has been invaluable,” said MCDOT ITS Branch Manager Faisal Saleem. “We are able to collaborate through the regional AZTech partnership and the ultimate result is providing reliable information for drivers today, while building the infrastructure of information for the future.”

About ADOT: The Arizona Department of Transportation is a multimodal transportation agency focused on safety and serving the traveling public in one of the nation’s fastest growing regions. ADOT is responsible for planning, building and operating more than 6,500 miles of state highways, thousands of bridges and the Grand Canyon Airport. The agency also operates the Motor Vehicle Division, providing title, registration and driver-license services throughout the state.

About MAG: The Maricopa Association of Governments provides a forum for local governments working together on issues that affect the lives of everyone in the greater Phoenix region. We are a regional agency that conducts planning and makes policy decisions in a number of core areas. These include safe and smart travel, the economy and growth, environment and sustainability, and improving quality of life, all with a focus on efficient and effective operations. Our members include 27 cities and towns, 3 Native nations, Maricopa County, portions of Pinal County, and the Arizona Department of Transportation. MAG’s planning area encompasses about 10,600 square miles.

About MCDOT: Maricopa County is the 4th largest county in the nation as well as one of the fastest growing counties. The Maricopa County Department of Transportation’s core value is being service-minded team builders who get it done with a smile.

About AZTech: AZTech is a regional traffic management partnership in the Phoenix Metropolitan area that guides the application of Intelligent Transportation System technologies for managing regional traffic. It carefully integrates individual traffic management strategies and technologies for the region’s benefit to promote seamless transportation across jurisdictional boundaries. The goal is to champion the integration of ITS technologies for regional solutions that provide timely and accurate information, save lives, improve mobility and enhance quality of life.