December 9, 2011 By Brian Heaton
If the thought of another congested commute along Interstate 95 in Virginia makes you sick with anxiety, an expansion of the state’s overhead travel times project may be the cure to help calm your nerves.
Launched in August, the pilot program featured electronic message signs to display travel times for various locations along Interstate 66 between the Capital Beltway and Gainesville, so drivers could take a different way to their destination. But now the technology is coming to seven spots along I-95, which Virginia officials hope will relieve the bumper-to-bumper conditions along the widely used road.
“Using travel data to display accurate travel times allows motorists to consider taking an alternate route before getting mired in traffic, or at the very least know what to expect,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in a statement. “Whether you are a daily commuter, long distance travel or trucker, this information is helpful.”
In an interview with Government Technology in August, Jennifer McCord, spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said that while the state knows the travel times project isn’t the No. 1 way to reduce road congestion, it can provide drivers with information to help make decisions while traveling.
She said overall, there are two different purposes for the technology. “One is that folks will make a decision to use a different route, the other key is that motorists are aware of what the situation is and how bad the traffic is,” McCord said. “A lot of it is [just] informing the public and letting them know.”
The travel times will be posted on overhead signs at the following locations along I-95:
• At Route 234, with the travel time to the Capital Beltway/I-495
• At Route 123, with the travel time to the Capital Beltway/I495
• At the Fairfax County Parkway, with the travel time to the D.C. line
• Near the Pentagon, with the travel time to the Capital Beltway/I-495
• Prior to the Beltway, with the travel time to Route 123
• Near the Fairfax County Parkway, with the travel time to Route 234
• Near Lorton, with the travel time to Route 3 in Fredericksburg
According to the state, travel times will be displayed Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To compute the times, VDOT partnered with Inrix Inc., a traffic data provider. Inrix compiles information on speeds from sources such as road sensors and anonymously through in-vehicle communications systems, which is then computed into travel times for road segments and transmitted to VDOT, which displays the information on the signs for motorists. Travel times are refreshed every five minutes.
McCord said that VDOT hopes to expand the project further across the state in the future.
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