On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
As Mississippians began clearing the wreckage and rebuilding their communities, the Mississippi DOT immediately began planning to rebuild US 90. For MDOT, the emphasis was not just on replacing what had been, but taking the opportunity to build back better than before. For a constrained US 90 corridor that could not be widened, this meant engaging local jurisdictions in a collaborative partnership to build a “smarter” US 90 with intelligent transportation system (ITS) elements to maximize the corridor’s capacity.
US 90 has played a vital role in the health and growth of coastal Mississippi for decades. But as traffic demands expanded
through the 1990’s and early 2000’s, US 90 became locked within its current right of way. Any widening of the corridor beyond
its four to six lanes was impractical or simply impossible because of ecological and historic impacts to the surrounding areas.
By 2005, motorists were experiencing excessive congestion, increased travel times, more crashes and risk for crashes, and
diminished air quality from those conditions. Traffic volumes had exceeded 48,000 vehicles per day in some sections, creating
gridlock conditions in many locations.
The MDOT design team developed ambitious goals for a US 90 ITS project that would bring state-of-the-art traffic management capabilities along the 43-mile corridor with 54 signalized intersections spanning six cities and two counties. Project goals included:
- Bringing all corridor signals all into a single, coordinated, advanced traffic management system (ATMS) to providing optimal traffic operations for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit.
- Establishing a robust and “storm resistant” communications network to support the ATMS initially, while allowing for future planned ITS applications along the corridor and in the region.
- Supporting reconstruction of the corridor and re-establishment of the local economy.
MDOT and its partners formed a multi-agency design team and began the project with a fast-track review of available ITS technologies. It was at this point that several private sector companies also partnered with MDOT to provide critical input into technology assessment and alternatives evaluation.
The final fast-track ITS project was designed to:
- Provide immediate and optimal traffic management capability along the corridor, and for all adjacent jurisdictions
- Provide capacity to meet the future local MDOT ITS needs
- Provide critical real-time information to travelers in the corridor via MDOT’s traffic information web-site (MSTraffic.com)
- Support corridor reconstruction efforts.
For this project, innovation came in finding creative solutions, working in partnership with multiple agencies toward a common goal, and applying the most effective and cost-efficient technologies to meet the transportation needs of the area. Innovation was demonstrated by providing a secure, scalable, high-capacity wireless communications system that serves current and future needs of the corridor and agencies in the region. Innovation also delivered a highly-functional and cost-effective combination of 18 closed-circuit traffic cameras and detection devices for 54 signalized intersections built in five separate construction projects across a 43-mile corridor. This innovation also provides a stream of readily available traffic data and video to traffic engineers, planners, emergency responders and the public through web-based interfaces that provide a level of traveler information never before available along the coast.