ODOT is Installing New Technology on Highways to Warn Drivers of Upcoming Traffic Congestion

I-90 West at E. 55th and I-176 North will be included

click to enlarge Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine at the Ohio Department of Transportation on Feb. 15. ODOT will install 13 automatic traffic queue warning systems that will use technology to detect and warn drivers of upcoming traffic congestion on highways. - (Photo by Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal.)
(Photo by Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal.)
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine at the Ohio Department of Transportation on Feb. 15. ODOT will install 13 automatic traffic queue warning systems that will use technology to detect and warn drivers of upcoming traffic congestion on highways.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is spending millions of dollars to install new warning system technology on highways across the state that will warn drivers of upcoming traffic congestion. 

The new automatic traffic queue warning systems are designed to cut down on “end-of-queue” crashes that occur on highways when drivers aren’t able to spot slowed or stopped traffic in time, resulting in a collision at the end of a traffic slow-down. 

Thirteen highway sites will have the warning systems installed, which are designed to notice slow or stopped traffic that will trigger a message board to warn drivers of upcoming slow traffic.

“The advanced cameras monitoring live traffic that feed into ODOT traffic management center will be tapping in real time when traffic is slowing down,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday during a press conference. “That technology will then immediately turn on a digital message warning drivers approximately two miles back of the upcoming slowdown.”

The estimated cost for each warning system ranges from $300,000 to $600,000 per site, depending on factors such as running utilities, ODOT spokesperson Matt Bruning said in an email. This means ODOT will spend between $3.9 million to $7.8 million to pay for the new technology.

It will take two years for ODOT to complete installation at all 13 sites.

The 13 sites

  • Cuyahoga County: I-90 WB, E. 55th to SR 2 Split (Innerbelt Curve)
  • Cuyahoga County: SR 176 NB south of Denison to 1-71/1-90 merge
  • Summit County: SR 8 at Howe Ave.
  • Licking County: I-70 westbound at SR 310
  • Franklin County: I-70 EB before US 33
  • Franklin County: I-670 EB before SR 315Franklin County: SR 315 before Kinnear Rd.
  • Franklin County: SR 315 before Refugee Rd./ramp to US-33
  • Franklin County: I-71 SB before N. Broadway/Cooke Rd.
  • Hamilton County: SR 126 EN before I-71
  • Hamilton County: I-71 NB before SR 126
  • Hamilton County: I-275 WB after I-75Greene County: 1-675 SB before Wilmington Pike

“These 13 sites were picked based upon the data that we have that indicates they’re the most likely places to have serious rear-end crashes,” DeWine said. “This technology obviously does not replace the need for drivers to simply pay attention while they’re on the roads. The new tool we’re announcing today can help prevent crashes, but ultimately it’s up to all of us, all of us who drive on the highway, to pay attention to the roads.”

The new warning system could also be installed at other sites along Ohio’s highways in the future.

End-of-queue crashes

There were 8,811 end-of-queue highway crashes last year and ODOT expects this new technology will reduce these types of crashes by at least 16% — which equates to about 1,400 crashes, said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.

“That’s more than 1,400 Ohioans getting home to their kids and their spouses, petting their dog or cat and continuing living their best life,” he said.

Tuscarawas Valley Crash

A recent example of a deadly end-of-queue crash happened on Nov. 14 when a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 70 in Licking County resulted in the death of three Tuscarawas Valley Middle-High School students and three adults.

The first of the 13 sites went live this week near the site of the Licking County crash. The warning system for this particular location was already in the works before the fatal crash. 

“This accelerated it,” Marchbanks said. “This site was picked because it already had much of the site ready work already there because of the existing sign to the electricity and the broadband connection. We’ve been working on cue detection and this particular tragedy just punched everyone in the gut … (and) prompted us to really reflect this technology and bring it on board as soon as possible.”

Distracted driver law

A distracted driver law went into effect last year that made it a primary offense to use your phone while driving, meaning law enforcement can pull over a driver simply for using their phone.

The law went into effect in April with a six-month grace period, meaning officers started issuing citations in October. The first offense within two years comes with a $150 fine and two points on a driver’s license. A second offense in two years goes up to three points and a fine of $250.

There were 15,500 fewer traffic crashes last year when compared to 2022 and 46,500 fewer crashes when compared to 2019, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.
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