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Smart streets High-tech tools to help drivers navigate safely         
                    (Arizona Daily Star; 03/22/99)                    

   This isn't your father's traffic report.

   Real-time accident and traffic updates may soon be fed to Interstate 10 
drivers via the Internet, kiosks located throughout Pima County and electronic 
message boards fixed along the highway.

   Federal and city transportation officials have teamed with the private 
sector to create an electronic system to send Pima County and Tucson commuters 
almost instantaneous reports on accidents, road delays, weather conditions and 
bus routes.

   "We envision a day, very soon, when local residents will be able to bring up 
a real-time traffic display on their computers before they go to work, see 
where the traffic jams are, and take an alternate route," said John E. Taylor, 
Intelligent Transportation Systems manager for the Pima Association of 
Governments. "And that's just the beginning."

   The program is part of the ongoing Intelligent Transportation Systems 
project, which combines a wide range of computer technology (including 
communications and traffic-control devices) to make city and county travel more 
efficient and safe.

   "We're not going to be able to build ourselves out of traffic," said Jim 
Glock, Department of Transportation director for the city of Tucson. "So we 
need to make what we have more efficient to get that done."

   All indications are that the high-tech transformation is well ahead of 
schedule, Taylor said.

   "The idea is to have a seamless system of travel," he said. "The average 
motorist doesn't care where he is - in the city or the county. He just wants to 
get to his destination fast and safely." Keeping up with traffic  Accomplishing 
both of those feats is becoming more difficult every day.

   By 2020, 1.2 million people are expected to live in the Tucson area, 
according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

   In response to the increased traffic problems, the Arizona Department of 
Transportation and the city of Tucson earmarked $4.7 million in 1996 to begin 
installing equipment to track real-time traffic on Interstate 10, from West Ina 
Road to South Sixth Avenue.

   This year, an additional $1.9 million is expected to be added to the 
construction budget.

   The Freeway Management System is about 80 percent designed, and construction 
is slated to begin in early fall, Taylor said.

   As part of the construction, two electronic message boards will be erected 
along Interstate 19 to provide traffic updates.

   The Pima Association of Governments also recently revamped its Intelligent 
Transportation Systems Web site to include contact names and up-to-date status 
reports on each of the system's four major components: the Transit Management 
System, Arterial Traffic Management System, Freeway Management System and 
Regional Traveler Information Center.

   Richard B. Nassi, the city's traffic engineer, envisions the Intelligent 
Transportation Systems as a way to slash motorists' drive times by diverting 
them around trouble spots to less congested routes.

   Bus riders also will be able to use the Internet or a kiosk for real-time 
bus locations and arrival times. Nassi said the high-tech system also could 
reduce air pollution and cut productivity losses for businesses whose products 
are delayed getting to market because of traffic jams.  Maps to go  State and 
local officials showed off parts of the system recently at the Public Works 
Building, 201 N. Stone Ave.

   Reporters and members of the community were shown computers displaying 
sister systems across the country, where motorists now get real-time digitized 
maps that pinpoint trouble areas and offer navigation guidance.

   Much of the same system already is in place in Phoenix, where the central 
freeways are wired with 45 closed-circuit TVs, huge variable message signs and 
pavement sensors every third of a mile to monitor traffic flow.

   Motorists with Internet access can access freeway camera views (updated 
every five to eight minutes) and real-time, color-coded traffic speed maps for 
the Phoenix-area freeway system at ADOT's Trailmaster site ( 
http://www.azfms.com ).

   Based on information from the speed sensors and cameras, traffic engineers 
can locate problems, post helpful information on the message signs and 
manipulate ramp meters to alleviate congestion. Watching cars go by  As part of 
the planned Tucson system, dozens of cameras and road sensors on I-10 and I-19 
will allow the Arizona Department of Public Safety to monitor traffic volume 
and speed, as well as watch closed-circuit television screens for accidents and 
other incidents.

   The DPS, the Tucson Transportation Control Center and the city's 911 system 
will have access to the video cameras.

   Information also will be made available to the public via traditional means -
 including radio and television - as well as through signals that regulate 
traffic entering the freeways.

   Metro Networks, a firm specializing in traveler information systems, will 
distribute information to local radio and television stations for broadcast. In 
time, other companies may offer a variety of devices that will receive the 
traffic information via palmtop computers, pagers or cellular phones, Taylor 
said.

   According to Taylor, 10 percent of revenues made by Metro Networks will be 
turned over to the city to pay for the system.

   Visit Dispatches, the online magazine of Arizona StarNet, at 
http://dispatches.azstarnet.com





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