‘Smarter Highways’ signs are days away from activation

You’ve seen the city’s new traffic-messaging signs in action recently – with the alert about the Spokane Street Viaduct lane closure, for example – and now the state is sending a reminder that its “Smarter Highways” signs are about to be activated on highways including the stretch of northbound I-5 used by drivers leaving the West Seattle Bridge. So what are these signs going to do that the current “trouble ahead” signs don’t, you ask? Read on for the official news release:

Go live is just a week away so now is the time for drivers to beef up their Smarter Highways knowledge. Engineers will activate high-tech traffic management system along northbound I-5 in south Seattle on Tuesday, Aug. 10.

“We’re asking drivers to get familiar with Smarter Highways ahead of time so they know what to do when the sign above their lane shows a yellow arrow or a reduced speed limit,” said Patty Rubstello, WSDOT Systems Engineer. “This is new technology for us and the United States, so we know it will be a big change for drivers.”

Overhead, electronic signs will automatically alert drivers to change lanes when an incident blocks traffic or to adjust their speed before reaching slower-moving traffic. The new signs will help reduce rear-end collisions, allow for earlier escape to alternate routes and smooth lane shifting caused by incidents like stalls or collisions.

Drivers have a variety of options to boost their Smarter Highways knowledge:

* Visit the Smarter Highways website: www.smarterhighways.com
* Watch the four-minute Smarter Highways video: www.wsdot.wa.gov/smarterhighways/video.htm
* Visit the I-5 Smarter Highways project website:
* Look at photos of the high-tech signs on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157623423392673/
* Talk about Smarter Highways on the WSDOT blog: wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/how-high-tech-tools-can-improve.html#more

WSDOT traffic engineers have rigorously tested the Smarter Highways on I-5 since May to ensure the complex system of traffic sensors, electronic signs and fiber optic are ready to activate.

“Getting Smarter Highways up and running is more than plugging in signs and flipping a switch,” said Rubstello “We need to make sure all system parts run together like clockwork.”

Installing Smarter Highways on I-5 will help keep people and goods moving during construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The I-5 project is funded through WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program.

Drivers will use Smarter Highways on three of Washington’s busiest corridors. The locations and activation dates are:

* Northbound I-5 between Boeing Access Road and I-90 on Aug. 10, 2010
* SR 520 between I-5 and 130th Avenue NE in Bellevue in fall 2010
* I-90 between I-5 and 150th Avenue SE in Bellevue in spring 2011

13 Replies to "'Smarter Highways' signs are days away from activation"

  • onceachef August 2, 2010 (10:25 am)

    Only other thing we need to make this work is smarter drivers….not holding my breath :)

  • MAXIMA August 2, 2010 (11:41 am)

    Warning! Zombies ahead!!!

  • consume August 2, 2010 (1:17 pm)

    You have got to be kidding me. I was born with these things called eyes in my head and maybe I just know how to drive.

  • MargL August 2, 2010 (1:27 pm)

    This is cool – now we can actually know which lane we -shouldn’t- in when the big red X marks the lane with the accident in it. “Oh wait, that lane is faster!” Yes, ’cause that’s the one folks are getting out of to avoid the crash, not the one folks are merging into.

  • bridge to somewhere August 2, 2010 (1:57 pm)

    @consume: can those eyes of yours see around turns, over hills, and through hundreds of cars? ;-)
    @MAXIMA: that was the best hack ever!

  • Baba August 2, 2010 (2:24 pm)

    I bet “Smarter Highways” signs in the not so distant future will get the toll collector function added to them. That debate is heating up and budget shortfalls need to be covered… They don’t call them “Smarter Highways” signs for nothing….

  • Delridge Denizen August 2, 2010 (6:13 pm)

    “Smart Highways – When Self-Preservation Just Isn’t Interesting Enough.”

  • onceachef August 2, 2010 (6:40 pm)

    I think these will help traffic issues but it all depends on drivers paying attention and reacting accordingly…like I said…not holding my breath.

  • austin August 2, 2010 (8:31 pm)

    Ridiculous. How many millions of dollars were spent equipping the freeway with signs that actually encourage people to pay less attention to their surroundings while traveling 90+ feet per second which will be in effective use what decimal point of a percentage of the time?

  • Bob Loblaw August 3, 2010 (8:15 am)

    I hope they help. I really do. But from what I have seen with the adjustable speed signs on I-90 westbound, it takes more than a sign. It takes drivers who comply for, eventually, their own good. That has not happened from what I’ve seen. Instead, 100% of the other vehicles on the roadway continue to truck along at 60+ mph when the signs say 40 or 45 or whatever. Old habits are hard to change. And Seattle drivers are some of the worst I have encountered.

  • aimee August 3, 2010 (8:43 am)

    Drivers don’t get the “Keep Right Except to Pass” law, so what makes me think that they’ll get this? Like onceachef, I’m not holding my breath.

  • JTM August 5, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    Does the new system include fines or other penalties for disobeying closed lanes, reduced limits, etc? I foresee famously horrible Seattle drivers entirely ignoring the new system.

  • George August 8, 2010 (6:39 pm)

    The system will definitely get used — traffic here is always congested. But it also begs the question: Shouldn’t we have taken the millions of dollars spent on this ridiculous system and put it toward fixing the congestion issue. Then maybe we wouldn’t need the system.

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