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Innovative ITS: Dynamic Lane Adjustments Decrease Emergency Response Times and Ease Congested Commutes

Challenge

Rapid population growth in Las Vegas caused The City to rethink traffic management to reduce congestion, traffic incidents, and serious injuries, and improve emergency vehicle response times.

Solution

Kimley-Horn used a Systems Engineering approach to integrate the KITS™ ATM software with NDOT’s existing KITS freeway management system, supporting dynamic lane management, queue warning, and variable speed limits. 

Impact

NDOT’s TMC operators can now direct the flow of traffic in near-real-time to dynamically adjust speed and designate lanes, resulting in emergency responders reporting a decreased incident response time , and  a safer, easier drive for commuters.

The Challenge

Las Vegas is a renowned resort city and a growing destination for businesses and families. Over the last decade, Las Vegas has seen incredible growth, nearly doubling its population. However, rapid population growth often leads to more vehicles on the roads, increasing congestion and related incidents.

In 2014, NDOT began experiencing higher levels of traffic congestion and freeway incidents throughout major freeway corridors in Las Vegas. The I-15 and US-95 interchange, referred to as the Spaghetti Bowl, now sees over 300,000 vehicles cross its roads per day. With increased congestion comes greater risk of serious injuries, fatal incidents, and slower emergency response times. Because Kimley-Horn has been working closely with NDOT since 2001 to develop its Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST), NDOT enlisted our help to find a way to optimize the use of existing transportation facilities and ATMS technologies to combat the negative effects the population increase was having on traffic and the community.

Our Solution

Kimley-Horn designed and implemented an integrated freeway management solution through a Systems Engineering approach. 

A Concept of Operations (ConOps) is an initial critical step in the systems engineering process and serves as the basis for the software’s functional requirements, providing direction and detail for the implementation of the ATM software solution. Through the development of the ConOps, NDOT stakeholders described the ATM strategies that would be used in NDOT’s customized solution, including dynamic lane management, queue warning, and variable speed limits.

Backed by software partners, NDOT entered into an agreement with the Kimley-Horn team for the ATMS software implementation, developing tailored software using the Decision Support System (DSS) of KITS™. This streamlined approach creates synergy between the existing KITS freeway management system (FMS) and the new ATM software, offering NDOT an integrated solution.

To collect traffic condition data, the NDOT ATMS software uses inputs from roadway sensors, human operators at the FAST TMC, CCTV cameras, and field and public safety personnel. Data is processed and used to actuate various roadside systems, such as lane control signs and variable speed limits, in near-real-time to dynamically manage traffic based on unforeseen conditions.

In 2018, the ATM software was completed and integrated into the operator workstations at the RTC of Southern Nevada FAST TMC. Implementation of the innovative software moved forward in coordination with Project NEON, a $1-billion I-15 and US-95 improvement project two decades in the making—securing it the spot of the largest public works project in Nevada’s history.

The Impact

When incidents occur, the system can more rapidly respond to congestion, effectively reducing secondary crashes.

After a trial run in 2019, the ATM system went live in 2020, during COVID-19. The initial focus has been on how well the system is responding to and altering congestion. When there is an incident, the HOV lanes open to all users and variable speed limit signs help guide roadway users to keep traffic flowing at a slower speed, effectively reducing secondary crashes through variable speed limits across the corridor. This change has effectively slowed high-speed vehicles before they enter a congested freeway.

These capabilities have yielded a positive outcome for residents and visitors of Las Vegas. Emergency operators have reported an improved ability to respond to crashes and commuters have reported significantly fewer incidents and infrequent safety concerns have made for a better, less stressful commute. As a result of positive feedback and even more positive data, NDOT plans to deploy ATM statewide, starting with a few projects in Las Vegas then moving into various corridors in Northern Nevada.

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