Cut through the weird bureaucratic officialese and what do you get: Maybe some better ways to navigate around a 20-mile Interstate 15 stretch from State Route 52, the Ted Williams Freeway, at Carmel Mountain Ranch to State Route 78 at Escondido. That hallowed stretch of highway heck experiences about 305,000 vehicle trips per day, according to officials.
It’s called The Integrate Corridor Management project, and if that’s not obscure enough try ICM. The project provides a first-in-the nation, coordinated real-time signage and coordinated traffic light system keyed off of breaking I-15 traffic conditions, according to local transportation officials.
The $10 million system coordinates electronic freeway signs displaying labeled routes and instructions about how to follow while also re-setting surface street traffic signals to facilitate vehicle flow.
Routes are designated with labels from A through W. That translates into 23 alternate routes and 40 permanent directional signs along surface streets near the freeway.
The system uses a system of electronic freeway signs, 40 specially-designated alternate route signs, and coordinated traffic signal and ramp meters to give motorists the option of circumventing major incidents that occur on the freeway.
“Nobody has done this anywhere in the country,” San Diego Association of Governments Director of Operations Ray Traynor said. “If you’re notified of a delay up ahead, let’s say you’re at I-15 and Miramar Road, you might be given an instruction to take a particular route off the freeway that would be different than one I would get if I was further north.”
Another example from Traynor:
“An electronic freeway sign might tell drivers to exit at Carmel Mountain Road and follow the signs labeled F,” Traynor said. “By following those signs, drivers will find traffic lights are coordinated along that route to get them back on to the I-15 as quickly as possible.”
San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Ron Roberts, who is also chairman of the SANDAG Board and a Democrat in a tough re-election fight against two Republican mayors, Kristin Gaspar of Encinitas and Sam Abed of Escondido, effused over the ICM guided freeway missile.
“Our region is a leader in taking advantage of technology to make our transportation system more efficient,” Roberts said. “These important steps on Interstate 15 will lead to even more effective use of innovations that are still to come.”
Other components to the project include the free 511 San Diego mobile application available for iOS and Android. The 511 app allows users to receive push notifications identifying incidents on favorite routes throughout the region. Along the ICM segment of I-15, the 511 app also provides drivers with predictive travel times based on real-time data.
The system was largely paid for with an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation which identified the I-15 corridor in 2010 for a pilot program for the new technology. Another $2 million from the state also was used.
Caltrans and SANDAG projects around the wonderful world of freeways and surface roads sometimes have had unintended consequences. Time will tell whether this new system facilitates traffic flow or morphs into traffic nightmare.