LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is establishing a statewide traffic management center, a move that agency officials see as the next step in using technology to ease traffic disruptions.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2oPL2lk) reported that the $1.9 million initiative will be housed in the department's radio room in Little Rock.
The department plans to add more than 200 cameras, double the number of highway advisory radio stations, deploy 100 weather information systems and add up to 200 bridge de-icing systems. Agency officials say the management center will gather all the information from that equipment together in one place for the first time.
The center is part of a larger effort to deploy technology nationwide to better manage traffic with the existing roadway systems to save money.
Interstate 30 and Interstate 40, which meet in North Little Rock, are among the most heavily traveled trucking corridors in the south central United States, especially I-40 between North Little Rock and West Memphis.
Most of the equipment the department has is stationed in Blytheville and West Memphis in east Arkansas; Pine Bluff in central Arkansas; in northwest Arkansas, and in Texarkana in southwest Arkansas, all urban centers on the state's 700-mile freeway system.
Future construction projects, such as the I-30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock, also will require contractors to deploy cameras and other equipment that the agency can use to monitor and manage traffic in the work zone.
“We actually have quite a bit of equipment,’ said Scott Bennett, the department's director. “More than anyone realizes.”
“It is ... a central location to collect and disseminate traffic information, monitor a lot of our devices, coordinate with other agencies, which will be law enforcement, emergency management and places like that,” Bennett told the Arkansas Highway Commission last week. “It could even be our statewide emergency operations management center if it needed to be.”
For now, the initiative will be housed in the department's radio room, which is in the basement of the agency headquarters at Interstate 30 and Base Line Road in Little Rock.
The radio room is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the department's Arkansas Highway Police and for other communication responsibilities.
The department plans to remove part of its cafeteria, which also is in the basement, to build out the radio room. It also plans to overhaul the workstations with new furnishings, lighting and equipment. All of that work carries an estimated cost of $600,000.
The 1,900-square-foot center would include a supervisor's office, five radio operator workstations, two traffic management center workstations, a conference room, a server room and a video wall.
"We really think we've got the money in the budget to be able to expand the operations down there to really get this kicked off," Bennett said.
The software needed to integrate the department's monitoring and communication systems is the most expensive — and challenging — aspect of the program.
A study by Kimley Horn of Austin, Texas, an engineering consulting firm, said the purchase of commercially available software is a less expensive alternative to developing customized software. Still, the software is estimated to cost $1.3 million and to take up to two years to procure, implement, test and accept, according to the study.
The funding will come from federal money the department gets for safety improvements, not for construction, Bennett said.