Connected Vehicle Pilot Project Inspires Coordination Among Florida Public Agencies

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 7 has agreed to provide video traffic detection devices to enable the operation of improved traffic signals as part of Tampa's Connected Vehicle Pilot project.

The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is currently in the design stage of this ground-breaking project to implement multiple connected vehicle applications in the Tampa Commercial Business District (CBD) to improve safety, mobility, and environmental impact of vehicle traffic.

Partly funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and partly by THEA, the project involves installing radios and computers in over 1,600 vehicles (including private cars, buses, and streetcars) and in over 40 fixed locations at downtown intersections to enable ultra-fast vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. The project will also equip over 500 area residents with cell-phone applications to alert equipped nearby vehicles when pedestrians are crossing a street.

One of the advantages of V2I communication is that it can enable more efficient operation of traffic signals. The signal controller can change the red and green phases of the traffic signal in real time to best serve the vehicles at or approaching the intersection. Vehicles waiting in a queue at a red light while an empty road has the green light would be a thing of the past. THEA plans to implement such a system along several streets in the Tampa CBD to reduce travel times and make traffic flow smoother and safer.

As THEA moved into the design phase, the project engineers delved into the details of signal optimization with the designers of the signal control process at the University of Arizona. They learned that signal control optimization can reach its full potential only when over 90 percent of the vehicles approaching the intersection have known location and speeds. The number of vehicles instrumented for V2I communication as part of the pilot would provide a far smaller percentage of vehicle coverage. A method of obtaining information on all vehicles approaching the instrumented intersections was needed.

After considering several technologies, including loop detectors and microwave detectors, FDOT District 7 agreed to pay for the procurement and installation of over 40 video traffic detectors at 12 intersections along Florida Avenue and Nebraska Avenue as part of a joint partnering agreement with THEA. HNTB (THEA's General Engineering Consultant, or GEC) will provide the design to integrate them with the rest of the connected vehicle pilot operation under its existing GEC contract, at no cost to the Tampa pilot. THEA will provide 10 "Bluetooth" detectors to determine travel time between points on these streets and along Meridian Avenue. These detection technologies will not identify or retain any information about individual drivers or vehicles.

The decision to install video detection along Florida Avenue and Nebraska Avenue was a win-win scenario since it will benefit the signal optimization goals for the Tampa pilot project, and these are state roads that are part of the upcoming Managed Lanes Tampa Bay Express project. Therefore, the partnership between THEA and FDOT will benefit both agencies, as well as result in shorter and smoother travel through the Tampa CBD for all drivers.

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