The Tampa Bay SunGuide Freeway Management
Peter J. Yauch, P.E.
Technical Director of Traffic Engineering and ITS
TEI Engineers & Planners, Tampa, Florida
The Tampa Bay area, located on the west coast of Florida, is
well known for its beautiful beaches and pleasant year-round
temperatures. It includes the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg,
Clearwater, and a multitude of smaller cities, towns, and communities.
Home of the World Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is also
home to 2.3 million people, many of whom drive on the area's
freeway system on a regular basis.
As the name implies, the area is centered around Tampa Bay,
which is a large body of water connected to the Gulf of Mexico.
St. Petersburg and Clearwater are located in Pinellas County,
on a peninsula between the Gulf and the Bay; Tampa is located
on the east side of the Bay, in Hillsborough County. Interstate
275 connects the two counties, and crosses the Bay twice - on
the Howard Frankland Bridge and on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge,
which extends down into Manatee County toward the Bradenton
/ Sarasota areas. Interstate 4 extends from its terminus at
Interstate 275 in downtown Tampa eastward to the Orlando and
Daytona Beach areas, and Interstate 75 runs north-south along
the east side of Tampa Bay.
The Florida Department of Transportation's District Seven,
which serves the Tampa Bay area, has embarked on a program to
implement a Freeway Management System on the area's Interstate
Highway System. Nationally, Freeway Management Systems have
long provided a tool to help keep traffic flowing smoothly along
our expressways and freeways. By providing timely identification
and verification of a congestion-causing incident, the system
can assist in the dispatching of appropriate emergency personnel
and equipment to the scene. In addition, the system can provide
information about the incident to motorists, to prepare them
for congestion or hazards, or to divert them to alternative
facilities. In short, the system can save lives, time, and money.
The Freeway Management System will also be invaluable during
hurricane and other inclement weather evacuations. As the Tampa
Bay area's population and density are increasing, moving residents
from the low-lying coastal communities inland to safety is a
critical concern. By allowing emergency management personnel
to determine traffic and weather conditions from a centralized
location, and provide information to motorists concerning shelters
and lodging opportunities, the coordination of the evacuation
process will be made easier.
The system will also be a major tool in traffic management
for tourism and special events. Raymond James Stadium, the St.
Petersburg Times Forum, and Tropicana Field are all served by
the Interstate system. Buccaneers, Lightning hockey, and Devil
Rays baseball games place a significant demand on the area roadways.
In addition, annual tourism attractions such as the Gasparilla
Pirate Invasion, the Florida State Fair, the Plant City Strawberry
Festival, Spring Break, and Spring Baseball training, all impact
the travel patterns of the area.
The Tampa Bay SunGuide program will provide for full incident
management capabilities on the Interstate Highway system within
Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, with ultimate expansion
to include Interstate 75 in Pasco and Hernando Counties. The
inclusion of non-Interstate facilities, including the Gandy
Bridge, Courtney Campbell Causeway, Veterans Expressway, Suncoast
Parkway, and Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, is also anticipated
for the future.
Within the areas of full incident management, the freeway infrastructure
will include vehicle detection stations spaced at approximately
one-half mile intervals. Using video detection technology and
a variety of incident detection algorithms, the system will
be able to automatically sense the presence of most congestion-causing
incidents. Cellular callers to 9-1-1 or *FHP (the Florida Highway
Patrol's motorist assistance line) services will supplement
the system's capabilities to determine the presence of an incident.
As a means of confirming the presence of an incident, as well
as monitoring traffic flow, video cameras will be located at
approximately one mile intervals. These color video cameras
will have full pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities, allowing system
operators to observe areas of interest along the roadway system.
Motorists along these corridors will be provided timely information
by means of regularly spaced dynamic message signs. These signs,
which use light emitting diodes (LEDs) for forming alphanumeric
characters and graphic symbols, will provide advance information
about incidents and traffic conditions. These will be particularly
critical at major diversion points, allowing for the rerouting
of heavy traffic flows to alternate facilities.
Tying these field devices together, and back to the system's
control facility, will be an extensive communications network.
To support the bandwidth necessary for video imaging, and to
provide a reliable, noise-resistant media, fiber optic communications
will be used. Gigabit Ethernet technology, with Internet Protocol
addressable devices, will be implemented to secure an off-the-shelf
solution to the communications requirements.
The system's traffic management facility, known as the Tampa
Bay SunGuide Center, will also serve as the District's Emergency
Operations Center and will also serve as the regional law enforcement
dispatch center of the Florida Highway Patrol and other state
law enforcement agencies. The center will be a hardened facility,
allowing operations to continue before, during, and after a
hurricane or other severe storms. Combining the three functions
will allow a multiple agency approach to traffic management
all in one centralized facility.
The operations staff at the Center will be responsible for
utilizing the system as an effective tool for traffic management.
A typical scenario for an incident starts with the system identifying
the location of a possible incident, based on the detector data
being received. The operator will view that section of the roadway
to confirm the presence of the incident, and to determine the
needed response, which may include dispatching police, fire
rescue, a Road Ranger service patrol vehicle, or DOT maintenance
forces. The operator will also activate appropriate messages
on nearby dynamic message signs, updating the information as
the incident evolves. The media may be notified, based on the
extent of the incident. In case of a need for the diversion
of traffic to alternative surface streets, the operator will
contact the appropriate traffic management center to implement
special signal timings.
The first phase of the Tampa Bay SunGuide system will come
on line in 2006, with additional phases, covering all of Pinellas
and Hillsborough Counties, over the following six years.
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