- The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is investing more than $50 million in smart traffic signals that will change their own timing based on real-time traffic conditions. The signals will use artificial intelligence to self-adjust 24 hours a day without help from humans.
- Sensors installed on poles and in pavement will send data to an operations center that will change the signal timing as necessary.
- Employees will begin installing the signals now on 14 corridor routes across Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Harford, Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, and the installation is expected to finish by the end of 2018. This is the latest measure the state has implemented to ease traffic congestion.
The sensors eliminate the slow process of a human going out to manually reprogram traffic lights, which is how Maryland's current, 20-year-old system operates. The sensors recognize when traffic increases — from rush hour, accidents or other conditions — and add longer green lights in the appropriate direction. All the lights along a corridor communicate and sync to alleviate traffic jams further down the road.
The 14 corridors were chosen in part because they already have sensor technology that can interact with the new signals. The longer-term goal is to add the technology to other congested corridors. As it stands, the project is expected to benefit approximately 680,000 drivers by decreasing their travel times. During a smart signal pilot involving 40,000 drivers, MDOT SHA's preliminary results showed a 13% reduction in travel time.
The project is the second phase of the governor's Traffic Relief Plan. Last month he announced a $9 billion project to widen three high-traffic roadways to ease congestion. Last year he committed to finding solutions to traffic tie-ups along the frequently jammed I-270. Governor Hogan has received criticism for focusing so much on vehicle-centric transportation plans such as road widening and not on public transit options. However, he has been a vocal proponent of bringing The Northeast Maglev's high-speed magnetic levitation train and Elon Musk's Hyperloop to his state.
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