SEATTLE – Early this morning the new electronic signs lit up over State Route 520 feeding drivers instant traffic information to help them better navigate one of the state’s toughest daily commutes.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) activated its latest stretch of Smarter Highways on SR 520 between 130th Ave NE in Bellevue and Interstate 5 in Seattle. It is the second corridor in the state – one of the first in the nation – to experience this cutting-edge traffic management system.
“The system is already helping reduce collisions on northbound I-5,” said Paula Hammond, state transportation secretary. “We’re excited to repeat that success and improve safety for the SR 520 commuters who depend on this vital link between Seattle and the Eastside.”
WSDOT traffic engineers saw a drop in collisions on northbound I-5 between Boeing Access Road and I-90 after they activated Smarter Highways along that 7-mile stretch in August. They counted 35 collisions from Aug. 10 to Nov. 10. Collision data from the same period for the past five years shows a range of 100 to 140 collisions.
“Paying attention and responding to the signs makes the road safer for drivers and emergency responders,” said Capt. Steve Burns of the Washington State Patrol. "We are seeing drivers move out of the closed lanes, and that creates a safer buffer.”
The high-tech signs will display variable speed limits and lane status over each lane to improve safety and reduce congestion on SR 520. Smarter Highways will also help reduce the collisions that cause backups and keep traffic moving during construction to replace the SR 520 bridge and improve the corridor.
Smarter Highways is one of several federally funded projects under way that will help reduce congestion and improve safety on SR 520 and I-90 in the Puget Sound area. The projects are a cooperative effort between WSDOT, King County and FHWA. This collaboration, known as the Lake Washington Urban Partnership, aims to improve traffic flow across the lake by implementing variable tolling on SR 520 and Smarter Highways on SR 520 and I-90; enhancing transit service and supporting regional carpool and telework programs.
“These technology improvements are part of $154 million in Urban Partnership funds awarded to the state of Washington,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “There is no single solution to relieving congestion, and only through a combination of investment and innovative approaches can we help address the problem.”
Smarter highways technology and techniques are a vital component of Moving Washington, WSDOT’s statewide strategy for improving mobility. The program uses new tools and technologies to better manage congestion by making our busiest freeways more efficient.
The automated traffic management system on SR 520 features a network of sensors and 70 electronic signs that automatically respond to changing traffic conditions and provide drivers real-time information. Overhead electronic signs alert drivers to change lanes when an incident blocks traffic ahead or to gradually adjust their speed before they reach slower-moving traffic.
Traffic engineers plan to activate Smarter Highways on I-90 between I-5 and 150th Avenue SE in Bellevue in spring 2011.
To learn more about how we’re making our highways smarter, visit: www.smarterhighways.com
For more information about the Lake Washington Urban Partnership, visit:
For information about Moving Washington visit: