Monday, October 12, 2015

Bi-state travel time signs connect Vancouver and Portland

By Tamara Greenwell and Bart Treece

Update for Oct. 23: Bi-state travel time signs have been displaying travel time for just over a week. Unfortunately, we've discovered some intermittent differences with the times posted and actual drive times on the signs on both sides of the river. Our techs are working on it, we want to make sure you have the most accurate information to make travel decisions.

The shortest distance between "Point A" and "Point B" may be a straight line, but if that straight line is backed up and congested, a different route might save you time. For example, you could take southbound I-5 from north Clark County to the Rose Quarter in Portland, or take I-205 to I-84 to the Rose Quarter. The direct I-5 route is shorter in distance, but it could take longer if a stalled car or a crash blocks a lane of traffic. Diverting could put more miles on your car but shave minutes off your trip.

But how do you know which way to go? Well, we want to help you make that decision. New travel time signs in both Washington and Oregon -- designed to help save time crossing the Columbia River -- will go live Thursday, Oct. 15.

The signs, similar to ones used in Tacoma and Seattle, are strategically installed at key driver decision points on both sides of the river and will show comparable travel times for common destinations. These times will change in response to real-time traffic conditions. You'll know when there's a stall or crash on a specific metro area highway, because travel times on that route will increase.
Here are some examples of the travel time signs.

How does it work?
Sensors embedded in the roadway measure the speed of vehicles passing through that particular location. It's a common tool for traffic data collection, but here's the tricky part: both Oregon and Washington have different data collection systems that need to connect in order provide reliable cross-state travel information. The solution? Updating the software applications so both state systems could use each other's data.

Travel times signs on SR 14 near 160th Street in Vancouver.

Now that traffic information is flowing across the Columbia River, the data is tested to ensure accuracy. Our engineers hit the road and log travel times to see how they measure up with the roadway sensors.

Travel times in more places
In addition to the new travel time signs, you'll be able to check the drive times on the WSDOT Southwest Region website. This way, you can plan your route ahead of time before hitting the road.

As regional traffic patterns change, so will average travel times. We'll drive the routes regularly to ensure the information is up to date and reliable.


Rosie Stein said...

Hi Tamera.
Do you have any dates as to when they'll be activated? Maybe some now, others later?
If you do have some specific dates, please let me know.

Rosemarie Stein
Traffic & Weather/Listings
The Oregonian

WSDOT said...

The signs will be activated later this week.

Dane Hobbs said...

Will you have the real-time travel times posted on a website? Have you established a baseline behavior condition so that when these signs go online you can see if it ends up having an impact on driving behaviors? I am also curious how you go about determining the times.

Bart Treece said...

Hi Dane,
We will have travel-times posted on the web in the coming weeks. The goal is to have starting points that make sense for commuters so they can plan their trips.

Travel times are gathered from traffic sensors that feeds an algorithm.

In the Puget Sound area, we've seen drivers divert because of the information they receive while on the road. This could be the travel time signs, or the electronic message signs and even radio traffic reports. All of these tools give drivers real-time information so they can make an informed decision.

Christopher Phillips said...

Hey nice post. Explained very well about route actually whenever i go for any tout it helps a lot find right path to destination. Some years ago i was not able to understand that rout but now I am quite well. I could learn more reading travel time in your blog now next month thinking to visit Vancouver.. Thanks for sharing

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