Wrong Way Warning System
ODOT's safety program reviewed corridors to find locations with higher rates of wrong-way crashes and is piloting the TraffiCalm system on IR-71 to determine the effectiveness of the system in reducing wrong-way incidents.
TraffiCalm's Wrong Way Warning System has been implemented on 23 exit ramps along IR-71 in the City of Cincinnati. The system utilizes LED-enhanced signs and detection, camera, and communications equipment to detect wrong-way drivers entering an exit ramp. As a driver enters the exit ramp going the wrong way, flashing LED-enhanced Wrong Way and Do Not Enter signs are activated to catch the driver's attention. If the driver ignores the flashing signs and continues down the exit ramp, then the cameras will record a short video clip and automatically email it to ODOT's Traffic Management Center (TMC.) The TMC will attempt to verify if the driver has entered the interstate mainline and notify the 911 communication centers. ODOT has been using this system since October 2019.
ODOT let 2 construction projects install the system along the corridor. The approximate average cost to install the system by a contractor on an exit ramp is $75,000. The typical installation is 2 LED-enhanced Wrong Way sign installations and 2 LED-enhanced Do Not Enter signs installations per ramp. Detection can be detector loops or non-intrusive detection such as radar, and ODOT's corridor is a mix of loops and radar. Both methods are reliable but detector loops can require a little more fine-tuning during setup to detect a wrong-way vehicle.
Power can be hardwired, if available, or solar, and ODOT's corridor is a mix of hardwire and solar. Both methods seem to be adequate for powering the system.
The construction contracts did include 2 years of TraffiCalm's support and will have to be renewed at that time. Field testing required minimal effort to verify the system was working properly. Sensors were triggered by project personnel to verify that signs were activated and notifications were being sent to the proper recipients. Fine-tuning of detector sensitivity and position was completed by the contractor, and TraffiCalm had to tweak their algorithm. Upon activation, any false alarm notifications were reviewed and corrected within a couple of weeks by TraffiCalm.
The challenges were limited to tweaking detector operation, camera orientation, and reviewing false alarms.
Benefit and Implementation
The biggest impact is there have been no drivers, who have been detected by the system, that have reached the interstate mainline nor any crashes on the exit ramps.
The activated LED-enhanced signs appear to be the most beneficial component of the system by grabbing drivers' attention and getting them turned around before anyone has reached the mainline.
Another benefit is the system notifications reveal which ramps have had a higher trend of vehicles starting the wrong way. This has led ODOT to review those locations for striping and signage improvements. These improvements have helped reduce vehicles from starting the wrong way on those ramps. After 1 year of operation, notifications have dropped off so the system and signing & striping changes have been effective.