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Innovative Operations

INDOT is applying different and creative solutions to transportation challenges that improve functionality, reduce operating expenses, and increase service. Dozens of activities have been upgraded, simplified, or improved through the use of technology and/or through new partnerships with the private sector. As a result, INDOT has been able to realize tens of millions of dollars in cost savings by utilizing innovative funding solutions to meet strategic needs, adopting more efficient policies and procedures, combining and streamlining procurement, and achieving reductions in operational costs.

Road Weather Information System

Conventional winter maintenance strategies involve waiting for the snow to start falling and then deploying plows and salt trucks to clear the pavement of snow and ice. These strategies produce safe travel conditions but give the storm the upper hand. The use of a Road Weather Information System (RWIS) enables INDOT to better anticipate the impact and timing of winter storms. The system enables INDOT to apply deicing chemicals before storms strike, so that snow and ice never get a chance to bond to the pavement. This provides motorists with safer travel conditions, and reduces the amount of deicing materials needed, which saves money and is better for the environment. Crews can also be more efficiently scheduled, thereby minimizing expensive overtime and standby costs. INDOT currently has 33 operational   systems strategically placed across the state and another five are located along the Indiana Toll Road. INDOT will continue to add RWIS stations to complete a statewide coverage grid. We also upgraded 10 older sites to newer technologies and installing video cameras to monitor traffic flow and travel situations.

On-the-Move Weigh Stations

Compliance with vehicle weight limits protects Indiana’s roads and drivers. But building, staffing and maintaining weigh stations is a substantial expense – and many areas have no scales at all. Truckers, understandably, also object to delays at weigh stations. The innovative INDOT solution is Virtual Weigh Stations that use in-ground sensors to weigh trucks as they travel along interstate and intrastate roads. When a truck crosses the sensors, its weight, speed and axle spacings are recorded, while a camera snaps a photo of the vehicle. Violations are forwarded to Indiana State Police, who stop the vehicle and weigh it using portable equipment or escort it to scales. INDOT partnered with the Indiana Department of Revenue’s Motor Carrier Services Division and the Indiana State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division on this program, using a $300,000 federal grant from the Commercial Vehicle Information System Network. Eventually, the Virtual Weigh Stations likely will be integrated with other systems that track weather conditions, measure speed, count traffic, monitor air quality and check for electronic permit tags.

Traffic Incident Management

The more quickly obstructions – including disabled or wrecked vehicles, debris or spilled cargo – can be cleared from the road, the safer for everyone, because secondary crashes can be avoided. INDOT has partnered with the Indiana State Police to address the issue in a structured way, and the outcome of that collaboration was a group named IN-TIME, Indiana’s Traffic Incident and Management Effort. Its mission is “to provide a common framework for development of traffic incident management policies and training programs across the various responder disciplines.” IN-TIME took its message of coordinated work and communications to state agencies first and widened its reach by hosting a statewide workshop for public safety officials, tow-truck drivers, first responders, environmental experts, state officials, emergency operations personnel and others. IN-TIME also worked with state legislators to update pertinent laws and policies. On average, this initiative results in one hour and 39 minutes of time saved per road closing event.

Alerting Travelers with Social Media

INDOT has embraced social media as a conduit for providing up-to-the minute travel and road information to motorists. INDOT now operates more than a dozen accounts on social media. Each of INDOT’s six districts manage a district-specific Facebook page, Instagram account, and Twitter feed. INDOT’s Central Office also manages a Facebook page, Instagram account, and Twitter feed, as well as a YouTube channel for INDOT videos. Because INDOT social media accounts are monitored and updated on a hour-by-hour, and often minute-by-minute basis, information provided about road and weather conditions is often more current than what motorists can get from radio and television. Facebook and Twitters users also can use INDOT’s platforms to share real time road and traffic conditions with other motorists. Motorists can easily link to INDOT social media through the Connect with Social Media webpage. Remember to not text and drive. INDOT also has upgraded its TrafficWise traveler information webpage to provide more accurate traffic and road conditions and has a toll-free number, 1-800-261-ROAD, as another resource for motorists seeking travel information.

Providing Travel Time to Destinations

INDOT continues to use Travel Time Signs to let motorists know the minutes of travel to upcoming destinations. Travel Time Signs are traditional panel signs, usually with two destinations shown and electronic inserts indicating the minutes of travel to those destinations. Motorists use this travel time information, along with downstream lane-restricting information which is displayed on Dynamic Message Signs (DMSs), to make informed decisions about their trip ahead. While many states have chosen to display travel times on Dynamic Message Signs, INDOT is deploying separate Travel Time Signs. The signs complement each other: Travel Time Signs provide information about travel times while the DMS tell of a specific problem and location. INDOT deployed the first Travel Time Signs on westbound I-80/94 in northwest Indiana in January 2010. Since then, INDOT has installed multiple Travel Time Signs in northwest Indiana and the Indianapolis area. The first overhead DMS in Indiana were deployed in 1998. INDOT has now installed 69 overhead DMS, including 46 in the Indianapolis area. Another 12 signs are in northwest Indiana near Chicago, while southern Indiana near Louisville, Ky., has nine signs. Two signs are located in the Fort Wayne area. Additional DMS are planned for the Indianapolis area and northwest Indiana in Fiscal Year 2016.

Damage Wise

Each year, more than 7,000 crashes damage infrastructure located along Indiana highways. This in-frastructure includes guardrail, cable barriers, crash attenu¬ators, lighting structures, signs, bridges, culverts, fences, traffic signals, pavement, and roadway drainage. In 2010, INDOT completed an investigation of potential solutions to the increasing financial burden to taxpayers of repairing and replacing damaged right-of-way infrastructure. As a result of that research, INDOT deployed a state-wide crash damage tagging, management and invoicing system that associates crash-damaged infrastructure to a police crash report and seeks reimbursement. As a result of the INDOT DamageWise program, reimbursement for repairing infrastructure damaged by motor vehicles doubled to more than $4 million per year and continues to increase. INDOT also tabulates and monitors performance mea¬sures on a quarterly basis to evaluate the cost recovery pro¬cess at the district and state level. These performance measures include annualized billings, elapsed time between crash date and the invoice date and the average percent of invoiced amount collected.

Snow & Ice Removal Operations

INDOT performs snow and ice removal operations on more than 30,000 lane miles of interstate, U.S. highways and state roads with a fleet of more than 900 snowplows and 1,700 snowplow drivers each year. INDOT monitors the effectiveness of its fleet through performance targets that are based on public safety, driver expectations, and speed based upon recovery time in order to regain normal commute speeds. Ongoing studies help determine the best methods of tracking and monitoring our performance using these methods. Training and technology help INDOT snowplow operators stay safe and make the right decisions in selecting and applying winter maintenance chemicals to increase efficiency and limit environmental impacts. INDOT is committed to exploring and staying current with the new technologies and ideas that enhance our snow and ice removal operations in an effort to reduce overall operational costs while still providing excellent customer service. For example, INDOT has purchased additional tow plows – a snowplow towed behind a plow truck that increases snow plowing effectiveness. We also are continuously looking for opportunities and methods that allow us to increase snow route lengths, which results in lower operational costs by reducing the number of trucks and drivers that are needed. INDOT also maintains a partnership with Purdue University and an active in-house maintenance research program that investigates and adopts innovative strategies that continues to improve snow and ice removal operations.

Technology Aids Traffic Counts

Collecting traffic counts on our highways is an important function at INDOT. With more than 12,000 counts performed annually, traffic volume data is vital for short- and long-term transportation planning, pavement design engineers, and state and local economic development groups. Either a pneumatic tube or tape sensors stretched across road lanes collect most traffic data on interstates and highways. Challenged to explore new methods to gather federally required traffic counts, INDOT’s Traffic Counting team implemented two new technologies – Laser Count and Video Count – that enhance safety and productivity while reducing operating costs. Laser Count involves the use of non-intrusive, infrared ranging laser units that detect the number of axles on vehicles which makes it ideal for collecting data on high-volume corridors. Video Count uses video technology to measure intersection traffic turning movements, and roundabout, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic counts. Video count technology enables INDOT technicians to track turn movement over a specified period of time with 98 percent accuracy. Under the tube/sensors method of conducting traffic counts, INDOT district offices collectively spent approximately 3,100 hours each year on performing manual turning count movements. Automating the process saves more than $270,000 each year in set-up and labor costs while reducing the need for consultants. The use of laser technology has eliminated the need for traffic control for 516 interstate traffic count locations, which saves more than $1 million in reduced operational costs over a 2-year period.

Contact Information

Barry K. Partridge, Ph.D, P.E.
Director-Research & Development
1205 Montgomery Street
P.O. Box 2279
West Lafayette, IN 47906-2279
765-463-1521 x251

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