Two ADOT efforts enhancing highway safety win national honors

Adjusted US 60 lanes in Tempe, wrong-way pilot system recognized

PHOENIX – Arizona Department of Transportation efforts that have improved safety on a busy stretch of westbound US 60 in Tempe and advanced a first-in-the-nation system that reduces the risk from wrong-way drivers have been honored by a national organization dedicated to the management and operation of state highways.

View of the new second exit lane to Tucson off the westbound US 60.

Runner-up for Best Transportation Systems Management and Operations Project (Creative Solution) is ADOT’s pilot system using technology to reduce the risk from wrong-way drivers on 15 miles of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. The National Operations Center of Excellence is presenting its Best Transportation Systems Management and Operations Project Award (Creative Solution) to ADOT for lane adjustments and new signs that have improved traffic conditions and dramatically reduced minor, rear-end crashes on westbound US 60 (Superstition Freeway) approaching Interstate 10.

“Arizonans' safety will always be our No. 1 priority,” Governor Doug Ducey said. “ADOT's efforts to leverage technology and develop innovative solutions are bringing about real, measurable improvements to roadway safety. Arizona will continue to focus on how we can constantly improve the safety and reliability our roadways.”

On westbound US 60, a July 2018 project that changed lane striping to allow a second left lane to eastbound I-10, complemented by new signage, has improved overall traffic flow in the freeway’s left lanes. Compared to the five years before this improvement, crashes in those lanes have declined by 90 percent during afternoon peak hours.

ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division partnered with the city of Tempe and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to study and implement the US 60 safety measures. 

The runner-up award for the I-17 wrong-way pilot system also honored stationing an AZDPS trooper at ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center in Phoenix as part of a comprehensive response designed to help law enforcement respond faster to wrong-way incidents than relying on 911 calls from other motorists.

Red Wrong Way sign surrounded by red lights.

Since it went into operation in January 2018, this system, using thermal cameras to immediately alert ADOT and AZDPS, has detected more than 40 wrong-way vehicles, most of which turned around on ramps without entering the freeway.

The system uses decision-support software to quickly alert other drivers to the danger through overhead message boards and ramp meter lights that hold on red to warn drivers not to enter the freeway. On off-ramps, self-illuminated wrong-way signs with flashing red LEDs attempt to get the attention of wrong-way drivers, most of whom are impaired.

Earlier this year, the I-17 system won a Government Innovation Award from GCN, an information technology industry magazine.

“It takes a creative, passionate and dedicated team to develop and deliver improvements like these that make a significant difference for travelers,” said Brent Cain, who leads ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division. “Their work, in coordination with partner agencies, aligns with ADOT’s goals of improving safety and mobility throughout Arizona.”

ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division includes a variety of traffic safety and operational programs, including roadway-safety improvements, traffic-signal systems, pavement conditions and crash response. It also includes technology used to manage congestion, such overhead message boards and closed-circuit cameras operated from the Traffic Operations Center.

“Innovative approaches that better manage our infrastructure and incorporate cutting-edge technology are why we reorganized in 2015 to create a Transportation Systems Management and Operations division,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “At the heart of this is a commitment to safety and to creating the most reliable transportation system in the nation.”

The National Operations Center of Excellence is a partnership of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Institute for Transportation Engineers and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, with support from the Federal Highway Administration.