Drawing on our fifth year of working alongside agencies to address Wrong Way driving across the US, we have learned a thing or two. Unsurprisingly, we realize that we (the ITS industry) have a ways to go.
The first question that precedes any discussion of a wrong way product or its use is “where do we put the stuff?” Admittedly, as a company who hangs a third of its catalog on the wrong way mitigation hook, our answer is usually an unflinching “Everywhere!” And, though intentionally naive, it is the best reply we can provide to this implicit question. Wrong way is not a solitary issue; when it comes to any low-data, high profile roadway problem (say, Rural Conflict Intersections) this question is pervasive. On one hand, we know every budget is tight, limited by the symptom that scenarios like these can only be resolved with the application of money- money of which there is never enough. On the other hand, the unbearable headlines delivered by way of searching wrong way accident don’t show signs of diminishing, let alone being forgotten. Any exposure to the problem leaves one confounded, and somewhat powerless.
So, while spoken in jest, every road, every ramp is the only complete answer. Everywhere is working; it is saving lives. Everywhere is winning awards and being recognized as innovation. Having recently heard of TxDOT’s receiving a 2015 National Roadway Safety award for their San Antonio TransGuide Wrong Way Driver project, we can nod to one of these recognitions. San Antonio knows the pain of wrong way incidences, but they know better the sharp victory of a 31% reduction in wrong way events on a corridor once too dangerous to drive past 11pm. The project, helmed by John Gianotti and TTI, accomplished an unprecedented goal: quantify a reduction in incidences by applying technology. Admittedly the technology they used was TraffiCalm’s own Wrong Way Alert, a point we are proud of but take no credit for. The accomplishment here is that they went for it. Stars aligned, POs were signed, and intentional (albeit minimal) dollars were applied to a very specific goal. And the results are the proof in concept, a 13.1 to 1 benefit to cost ratio was realized. What was once a proposal hindered by an insurmountable price tags was not only realized as approachable, but even found profitable. We find ourselves obliged to congratulate TxDOT!
Of course, we don’t see this level of commitment every day from every engineer. Some are excitable, a few are skeptical, but everyone would agree something can be done. So we bring ourselves down to earth and advise that you start with one ramp. Perhaps it has been a frequent source of wrong way entrances, but it is not unusual to have a lack of data. So pick one. Give wrong way mitigation technology a shot!