Oct 95 Level of Govt: City, State. Function: Transportation. Problem/situation: The Olympic Games pose a unique challenge for a Atlanta's transportation agency. Solution: An integrated transportation systems designed to ease traffic flow. Jurisdiction: Atlanta. Vendors: TRW Transportation Systems, JHK and Associates. Contact: Marion G. Waters, 404/656-5423

By David Aden Contributing Writer Athletes spend years, or even decades, preparing for the Olympic games. So do cities. Hosting the Olympics puts a unique kind of strain on a city. Not only are stadiums and playing fields needed, so are accommodations for athletes, hotels for visiting dignitaries and tourists, restaurants, medical facilities, etc. But just building these resources is not enough - people have to be able to locate them, get to them and get back to their homes or hotels when the event is over. Few things could destroy the excitement of the Olympics - not to mention its economic opportunities - faster than an impenetrable transportation gridlock.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS In early 1990 - while Atlanta was in contention as the site for the 1996 summer Olympics - the Department of Transportation (DOT) was asked to come up with solutions to handle the expected flow of traffic. Preliminary plans and cost estimates were drawn up but work didn't begin in earnest until Atlanta was selected in late 1990. Fifty-eight million dollars in federal funds were earmarked for an Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS) in Atlanta in 1991 and by July 1992 a request for proposals went out. A team headed by what had been TRW's Military Electronics and Avionics Divisions won the contract in 1993. TRW applied their military experience to the problems of traffic control has really come into its own in the 1990s. "Any decision-support system gathers information from a variety of inputs, processes it, displays it to a decision-maker in a cogent fashion, allows that person to make a decision, checks the outcome of it and then disseminates the information," said Robert "Tip" B. Franklin, Jr., the regional director for the southern region for TRW Transportation Systems. "What we are building here is rather unique as we have a deadline of the Olympics and no one was willing to have the dates of the Olympics changed," said Marion G. Waters, a state traffic operations engineer with the Georgia DOT. "Normally, when you're building a highway you can shift the dates of completion if you need to. We have changed the method of doing things by getting multiple contractors." Waters currently has 11 contractors on 14 contracts - one putting up the changeable signs, another digging the trench, another laying the fiber optics - which has sometimes made life complicated.

LEARNING FROM OTHERS During the design phase of the project, DOT officials visited some of the most successful systems in the country. What they found is that many systems that were touted as integrated actually consisted of independent systems. For example, in one city, when a traffic light failed, someone in the transportation department received notification and then placed a call to another department to get it fixed. In the Atlanta ATMS, such a failure will show up as an alarm on both the traffic management system and the department charged with handling repairs. Additionally, because problems in one area often creates problems in others, the alarm shows up in all surrounding areas. Information will be fed into the ATMS from standard loop detectors already in the street for approximately 900 traffic lights. On the freeways, the plan calls for the use of AutoScope - a system of six cameras mounted on a pole at the side of the road. The system translates the visual image into digital data describing volume, speed, occupancy by lane, and alarms for accidents or drivers going the wrong way. A video system was preferable for the highways since it is a lot easier to put a pole at the side of the road than to embed

David Aden  | 
David Aden DAden@webworldtech.com is a writer from Washington, D.C.