County debuts traffic control tech

New controllers will adjust to changing conditions instead of relying on timed, preprogrammed traffic lights

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"Street smart"

The nation's third-largest county is at the forefront of traffic control

technology.

Harris County, Texas — with more than 3 million residents — will be

the first to use the Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) 2070 standard,

which has yet to be formally adopted.

The technology will enable traffic controllers at intersections to handle

a variety of functions from within a single box. Currently, traffic control

systems, such as closed-circuit TV cameras, highway advisory radio and changeable

message signs, require their own controllers.

ATC 2070 also will make the deployment of advanced control technologies,

such as real-time, adaptive systems, more feasible for use on major city

streets and roads, according to Raj Ghaman, travel management team leader

for the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Operations Research and

Development.

Using artificial intelligence, traffic pattern history and real-time

detection data, new ATC controllers will be able to adjust to changing traffic

conditions instead of relying on timed, pre-programmed traffic lights.

Unlike other systems — which are proprietary and can control only a

few traffic functions — the ATC 2070 controllers are based on open technology

that requires traffic control systems to use the same communication ports,

interchangeable modems and standard operating systems.

"In the near future we will have about 200 of these new ATC controllers

installed throughout the county, and we are also building a fiber-optic

network that will link them and bring a feed back to a central control room

where they can be monitored," said Victor Fredericksen, manager of Harris

County's Traffic Planning and Design section. "It will take a couple of

years to get them installed at all the 500 or so signalized intersections

under our control."

Other urban areas, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and

Portland, Ore., also plan to install ATC 2070 equipment.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

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