Engineering Innovations
Engineering Innovation

Bringing Smart Roads to Minnesota

WSP USA is leading a pilot program to design Minnesota’s first smart road using connected vehicle technology along a stretch of highway near Minneapolis.

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©THINKSTOCK/CHOMBOSAN

WSP is leading a program to transform a highway into a smart road, capable of testing and deploying applications that will improve safety and mobility.

“Connected vehicle technology will have a huge impact on people’s lives, and Minnesota embracing it is another critical step to seeing it become a reality,” said Scott Shogan, connected and automated vehicle market leader at WSP.

WSP was selected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to transform a major state highway west of Minneapolis into a road capable of testing and deploying numerous applications for safety and mobility. As prime consultant, the firm is responsible for providing planning, systems engineering and technical support to MnDOT, and will develop a concept of operations for the project, prepare system requirements, and support the procurement of system design and deployment in subsequent phases.

“This project is focused on developing a connected corridor using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology, but also looking for other ways to distribute data, such as traffic signal timings, through existing means such as cellular communications,” Shogan said.

MnDOT has selected the 9-mile Trunk Highway 55 (TH-55) corridor between downtown Minneapolis and Interstate 494 as the initial location to deploy this technology. In addition, portions of Interstate 394, which runs parallel to the south of TH-55, may be outfitted with connected vehicle infrastructure to allow for additional applications.

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©2016 WSP USA

Scott Shogan has led several connected and automated vehicle projects for WSP.

Planning will continue through the summer, and deployment of the connected corridor program is expected to start later this year.

Charting a Course Forward

The backbone of the Minnesota project will be the broadcast of signal, phase and timing (SPaT) information to vehicles directly from traffic signal controllers along the corridor. MnDOT will be developing the communications infrastructure and data management systems to support a range of existing and future technologies.

“SPaT data can enable high-value applications that have been identified as initial use cases for a national connected vehicle deployment,” Shogan said. “The data exchange system envisioned will support collection and management of this new data, as well as sharing of agency data with third parties, to improve information-sharing and enable more efficient system management.”

Once the connected corridor is ready for activation, WSP and MnDOT will lead outreach efforts and demonstrations to illustrate the benefits of the Minnesota connected corridor to the public.

Plowing Ahead

Minnesota is no stranger to harsh winter weather, and snow clearing is a critical function to keep Minnesota moving during winter months. Connected vehicle technology will improve the responsiveness of snow removal crews.

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©THINKSTOCK/CWEIMER4

The connected vehicle technology will provide traffic signal priority to snow plows in order to improve efficiency of snow clearance operations.

“One key application will be using the technology to provide traffic signal priority to snow plows in order to improve efficiency of snow clearance operations,” Shogan said. “This would be the first implementation of snow plow signal priority.”

Along surface roadways and at ramps, stops at traffic signals are extremely disruptive to plow operations, resulting in inefficient clearing and often leading to a second trip by the plows to clear intersection areas, or incomplete snow clearance. These conditions add to the time and cost of snow removal while reducing safety for plow operators and motorists on the corridor.

“Snow plow signal priority will allow prioritized treatment at traffic signals for plow clearing operations along and across TH-55, reducing the number of stops,” Shogan said. “This will allow operators to clear intersections in a single pass, reduce total snow clearance time, and get plows off the road faster.”

The connected corridor will also include a mobile work zone warning system that improves traveler information to all motorists using dynamic signs, mobile applications and direct radio messages.

An intersection conflict warning system will provide bus drivers with an alert when a pedestrian is in an approaching crosswalk, providing an additional level of safety to pedestrians as they cross busy intersections.

Connected Vehicle Leader

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©2015 COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN/p>

WSP was involved with the development of Mcity in Michigan, one of the first connected vehicle test tracks.

WSP is at the forefront developing and testing transportation infrastructure for connected and automated vehicles, and advises transportation agencies across the U.S. on the development and implementation of infrastructure to accommodate connected vehicles. Some of the firm’s projects include:

  • supporting the connected vehicle infrastructure for Mcity, a 32-acre test track at the University of Michigan, one of the first test tracks in the nation purpose-built to test connected and automated vehicles in a variety of real-world conditions;
  • planning and designing all technology systems for the first phase of the American Center for Mobility, a large test track facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for the testing and certification of automated vehicles; and
  • developing a strategic plan for connected and automated vehicles for the Illinois Tollway.

Shogan has been involved with each of those programs, and is looking forward to introducing connected vehicle technology to Minnesota motorists. (Click here to watch a short video on connected vehicles with Scott Shogan.)

“It is very rewarding to have an opportunity to help MnDOT chart a course forward for deploying these technologies,” Shogan said.

[Editor’s Note: To learn more about how WSP supports the planning, deployment and maintenance of intelligent transportation systems and connected and automated vehicle projects across the U.S., visit www.advancingtransport.com.]


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