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Arizona Focuses on Sustaining a Reliable Transportation System

Matt Ball on January 13, 2016 - in Corporate, Design/Engineering, Transportation

PHOENIX – As traffic demands continue to grow across the state, the Arizona Department of Transportation is becoming more efficient and innovative in operating and sustaining a transportation system that touches the lives of nearly every Arizonan.

In streamlining its overall structure, ADOT is shifting several core functions into the Transportation Systems Management and Operations Division (TSMO). The move allows ADOT to better manage current infrastructure while looking ahead to the use of emerging technologies that can enhance the mobility of people and products.

The TSMO Division includes a variety of traffic safety and operational programs, including roadway-safety improvements, traffic-signal systems, pavement conditions and crash response. It also includes technology used to manage congestion, such as ADOT’s growing network of highway traffic-flow sensors, overhead message boards and closed-circuit cameras operated from the agency’s Traffic Operations Center in Phoenix.

“Governor Ducey has challenged state agencies to adopt practices for daily improvement and this is one of our answers,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “By proactively maximizing the capacity of our entire system, our efforts stretch the investment taxpayers are making in transportation. By focusing on the whole system, rather than individual corridors, movement and safety are optimized along today’s and tomorrow’s highways, especially with emerging technologies that will move us into the future.”

Today’s safety improvements can be relatively simple. An example is adding large freeway-number decals along a travel lane to help guide drivers when they’re approaching another freeway. Synchronized traffic signals are another example. Tomorrow’s technological innovations likely include electronic variable speed limit signs that adjust to traffic conditions.

TSMO Division employees also are involved in coordinating agency resources when ADOT prepares and responds to winter storms like the recent ones that impacted much of the state. ADOT partners with other safety agencies to reopen any closed highways and get traffic moving again as quickly as possible.

The focus on efficiency includes ADOT’s recent move to consolidate the number of its engineering districts around the state from 10 to seven. The agency also has reduced its number of full-time employees from more than 4,500 in 2008 to fewer than 3,900 today. In an age of making the most of limited transportation funding, ADOT has joined the short list of state transportation departments that have made transportation system management and operations part of their organizations.

“We’ve understood for some time that you can’t just build your way out of congestion,” said ADOT Assistant Director Brent Cain, who leads the TSMO Division. “We’re evaluating all of our functions, as well as safety and operational processes, to determine new approaches and efficiencies to maximize the capacity of our existing highways and other infrastructure. We’ll be better prepared for the future, while working even more closely with the Department of Public Safety, local police and fire departments, emergency-response agencies as well as counties, cities and towns. The goal is to bolster the reliability of the current system while we add efficient future improvements.”

One of ADOT’s other divisions also is involved in the agency’s transition. It has taken on a new name. The former Intermodal Transportation Division, which designs, constructs and maintains the state’s highway system, is now the Infrastructure Delivery and Operations Division (IDO).

“Providing system reliability, while developing strategic improvements to our infrastructure is critical to Arizona’s economy,” Assistant Director for Infrastructure Delivery and Operations Steve Boschen said. “This name more accurately describes what our employees do on behalf of our customers. We focus on those who depend on our work to get them where they need to go. It really is about infrastructure delivery and operations.”

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